An appeal court in Bahrain upheld jail sentences today for nine medics who treated wounded protesters during last year's pro-democracy demonstrations, part of the Arab spring. Nine others were acquitted and two more have gone into hiding. The convictions, condemned internationally, highlight the Gulf kingdom's continued reluctance to implement promised human rights reforms.
The group of 20, which includes doctors, nurses and other medical professionals, was first arrested last year when security forces violently crushed massive protests in the capital, Manama. Many reported being beaten, threatened with rape and subjected to electric shocks while in custody.
An emergency military court set up to handle the unrest found them guilty of trying to overthrow the government, and imposed jail sentences of up to 15 years. Under international pressure, the cases were transferred to a civilian court, which acquitted the doctors of some of the most serious charges and cut their sentences – though one, Ali al-Ekri, is still set to serve five years.
International human rights groups joined the doctors' lawyers in condemning the ruling and calling for all the cases to be dismissed on appeal. A defence lawyer told the BBC that while some of the medics may have violated professional ethics by taking part in the protests, none had committed a crime.
Further reading: Physicians for Human Rights has a full report on the 20 medics and dozens more facing trials in Bahrain. And here's the US's assistant secretary of state calling for a dismissal of the charges on appeal: