Bahrain refers 47 medics to military court

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DUBAI: Bahraini authorities have referred 47 medics to a military court after accusing them of abusing their posts to take part in anti-regime protests that were crushed in March.

The defendants include 24 doctors and 23 nurses, the kingdom’s Information Affairs Authority (IAA) said in a statement late Tuesday, adding that the military prosecution has already leveled several charges against them.

Authorities set up a military court after King Hamad declared a state of national safety, a lower level of emergency, a day before security forces crushed a Shia-dominated month-long protest demanding democratic reforms.

The medics have all worked at the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama, which was stormed by security forces after they drove protesters on March 16 out of the nearby Pearl Square — the focal point of protests inspired by uprisings that have swept the Arab world.

At the time, Bahraini state media accused medics who sympathized with the protesters of occupying the SMC and turning it into a protest ground.

The 47 medics have been charged with "refusal to extend assistance to a person in need, embezzlement of public funds, assault, assault that resulted in death, unauthorised possession of weapons and ammunition, refusal to perform duties and putting people’s lives and health at risk," the IAA said.

They have also been charged with "illegal detention, abuse of authority to suspend and stall laws and regulations, attempts to occupy buildings by force, incitement to the forceful overthrow of a political regime," it added.

In addition, they were accused of "incitement to hatred of a regime, incitement to hatred of a segment of society, dissemination of false news and malicious rumors that could harm public interest and participation in unauthorized rallies and meetings," it said.

Bahrain has come under strong criticism from international human rights organisations for its heavy-handed crackdown on Shias, including medical staff.

Authorities in the kingdom ruled by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty have said that 24 people were killed during the unrest, most of them demonstrators.

On Monday, security forces stormed the houses of two former Shia opposition lawmakers and led them away.

Last week, four Shias were sentenced to death and three others jailed for life by a military court after they were convicted of involvement in the killing of two security men.

A Bahraini official has said that 405 detainees have been referred to military courts while 312 have been released.

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