Bahrain medic accuses police of torture
One of the has again accused the police of torture, threatening rape and insisted: "My only crime is I did my job; I helped people".
Nada Dhaif, a doctor in private practice, was given a 15-year sentence for committing crimes against the state by tending the injured in a makeshift medical tent.
The sentences were handed down by a military court set up to conduct the trials, which stemmed from the -inspired uprising in the country in February and March.
The medics, all of whom denied the charges, were among dozens arrested following protests led by 's Shia majority against the government headed by the country's ruling Sunni minority.
Thirteen of the doctors and nurses received sentences of 15 years in prison, while another seven received terms of five to 10 years.
All were charged with committing crimes against the state during an insurrection they insist was peaceful and popularly inspired.
Most worked at the Salmaniya Medical Centre in Manama, which became . The formal charges were for stealing medicine, possessing weapons and occupying a government hospital. The medics were also accused of "inciting hatred to the regime and insulting it, instigating hatred against another sect and obstructing the implementation of law, destroying public property and taking part in gatherings aimed at jeopardising the general security and committing crimes".
Dhaif told she had never worked in the Salmaniya Medical Centre, and had been arrested at home after helping to set up the medical tent on a roundabout that became a focus for protests in the capital.
"My only crime is I did my job and helped people," she said. "I volunteered to save lives. That is the only crime in the eyes of the government and for that I have to be punished."
The doctor said she initially thought she was being kidnapped when police officers in civilian clothes stormed into her house in the early hours of 19 March.
"I was taken in a civilian car so the first thing that came to my mind was that I was [being] kidnapped," she said. Dhaif later realised she had been taken to the CID building, where she was tortured and threatened with rape.
"Immediately after I was taken [there was] the beating, the cursing, the kicking, the spitting; even I was electrocuted there at that unknown place."
Dhaif, who says she has "never, ever, ever" been a political activist or taken action against the government, said she and others were forced to sign confessions while blindfolded and made to admit to the charges on television.
"Me and my colleagues were kept together in one hall and they threatened us with rape, they threatened us with our families … if you don't just step in front of the camera and say I did this, this, this, this. And at the end you have to apologise for the king and you have to apologise for the government. Unless you do that, there's always, 'Or else. Or else …'"
Dhaif said her arrest and detention had devastated her family.
"I have two kids, eight and six-and-a-half. They're still very much traumatised due to their mother's sudden absence. They didn't know where I was. Their father told them, 'She left, she travelled to Europe for postgraduate'. And it didn't make any sense to them why their mother's not calling; why she didn't say goodbye. It's a trauma to my family. They are very much scarred."
The doctor, who will appeal against her conviction, added that she felt she had been picked on because she is a Shia muslim.
The sentences have attracted international condemnation, with Amnesty International describing them as ludicrous.
"It appears that the real reason for targeting these health workers was the fact that they denounced the government crackdown on protesters in interviews to international media," said the group's Africa and Middle East deputy director, Philip Luther.
"The ruling government clearly wants to send a message that anybody perceived as advocating political reforms will be dealt with severely."
The British foreign secretary, William Hague, also questioned the actions of the military court.
"These sentences appear disproportionate to the charges brought," he said. "These are worrying developments that could undermine the Bahraini government's moves towards dialogue and the reform needed for long-term stability in ."
Sheikh Abdul Aziz of the Bahraini information ministry refused to comment on Dhaif's case or her claims of torture and mistreatment, but said he was sure the truth would come out on 30 October, when an independent commission makes its report on the uprisings.
"If there have been cases where individuals have abused their positions in the security apparatus, they will be held accountable," he said.
He also said that the medics could still appeal to the highest civilian court in the land where their sentences could be reviewed.