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23 Bahrain medics get 3-month jail terms

DUBAI, Nov 21, (Agencies): A Bahrain court on Wednesday sentenced 23 medics to three months in jail each for taking part in anti-regime protests last year and acquitted five others, the prosecution said.
Manama’s lower criminal court sentenced 23 defendants to three months in jail or payment of 200 dinars ($530) each to have the prison terms suspended, prosecutor Abdulrahman al-Sayyed said, quoted by the official news agency BNA.
The defendants, and other medics who were tried earlier, “committed crimes and violations, breaching the law and the (medical) norms,” he said, while BNA said they had been charged with “taking part in unauthorised demonstrations.”
They have the right to appeal.
They were among a group of 47 medics rounded up in the wake of a brutal crackdown on Shiite-led protests in mid-March 2011. Many medics charge they were tortured in custody.
Nine medics have been handed jail terms of between one month and five years, while nine others were acquitted and two remain at large.
Meanwhile, US officials voiced concern on Tuesday that Bahrain’s failure to implement key reforms outlined in an independent 2011 report is making political dialogue more difficult and widening fissures in society in ways that would benefit Iran.
Bahrain, where the US Fifth Fleet is based, has been under Western pressure to implement recommendations for police, judicial, media and education reforms made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), an independent commission of international legal experts.
“We are worried that this society is moving apart rather than coming together in a way that would ensure both human rights and stability,” said a senior US official, speaking to reporters on condition he not be identified by name.
“It’s absolutely clear that if society breaks apart, Iran will be the big winner and beneficiary,” added the official.
Shi’ite protesters complain they continue to be marginalized by Bahrain’s Sunni rulers. The strategically located island state is a key US ally in Washington’s stand-off with Shi’ite Iran.
The BICI report, issued last year, said 35 people died during unrest which erupted in the Persian Gulf monarchy in February 2011 after revolts overthrew dictators in Egypt and Tunisia.
The US official said Bahrain had “followed a number of the recommendations” including allowing Red Cross access to prisoners, issuing arrest protocols and modest police training and setting up an ombudsman in the Ministry of Interior.
“On the hardest issues, the government has not followed through,” he said, citing people still being held in prison or facing prosecution for the early 2011 demonstrations.
“We remain concerned about increasing violence in Bahrain, by limits on free expression and assembly and a political environment that’s become increasingly difficult and that’s made reconciliation and political dialogue more difficult,” said the official.

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