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Bahrain’s Appeals Court has convicted nine medics for their role in the country's Arab Spring uprising, despite widespread criticism of the trial from international human rights groups and the United Nations. Dr Ali Al Ekry, former Senior Medic at Bahrain’s largest hospital, was sentenced to five years in jail. Eight others were sentenced to between 1 month and 3 years. Two others, who have not appealed, were convicted by a military court and sentenced to 15 years. Nine other doctors were acquitted by the court. The Bahraini government agreed to hear their cases in civilian courts after much international pressure earlier in the year for putting them on trial at a military court.

 

The court dismissed some of the most serious charges against the doctors, including allegations that they "occupied" the hospital and possessed weapons.

 

The medics were convicted of attempting to overthrow the government. Their supporters claim they were prosecuted simply for treating wounded protesters and taking part in demonstrations themselves.

 

The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, the government panel established to study last year's unrest, found that the medics were tortured while in custody. Rights groups have argued that all of the convictions should be dismissed.

 

All the convicted medics are from the country’s Shiite majority.

 

June 14, 2012

 

 

Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk


 

Despite the lowering of the original sentencing, the verdicts in the Appeals Court raises the political risk level and the risk for further alienation of the country’s Shiite majority. The fact that the verdicts, albeit reduced, came from a civilian court, further alienates the Shiite population from the country’s establishment. Even though the original sentences were harsher, they came from a military court, which in some circles was seen as potentially distinct from the civilian courts. Now that the sentences have come from a civilian court, they will further erode any confidence in the state’s civilian structures.

 

The overall effect of the verdicts is continued lack of trust between the ruling Sunni minority and the Shiite majority, and the risk of continued civil unrest.

 

The figure below shows the country’s ethnic make-up: