A special security court in Bahrain [JURIST news archive] on Thursday sentenced one anti-government protester to death for killing a police officer, and gave lengthy prison sentences to medical personnel, including doctors, for providing treatment to injured protesters during the country's uprising. The National Safety Court of Appeal, a court composed of military prosecutors and civilian and military judges, sentenced defendant Ali Yusuf Abdulwahab Al Taweel to death for deliberately murdering a police officer [BNA report] in an act of terror, endangering the lives of others, and spreading fear and terror during the protests. A second defendant, Mehdi Ali Attia, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the officer's death. The court also sentenced 20 other alleged protesters, including 12 physicians who had reportedly joined a hunger strike [JURIST report], to terms ranging from five to ten years imprisonment for events occurring at a medical complex. The defendants were accused of having possession of Molotov cocktails and other weapons for the purposes of ousting the ruling regime, confiscating medical equipment, spreading lies and violating laws and regulations in order to disturb public security. The court also upheld the sentences of 21 other jailed anti-government protesters, after hearing their appeals [JURIST report] earlier this month. A spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] questioned the fairness of the proceedings [UN News Centre report] stating that, "For such harsh sentences to be handed down to civilians in a military court with serious due process irregularities raises severe concerns." The OHCHR urged the Bahraini government to ensure that all detainees are charged with a recognizable criminal offense, and that they have enough time to prepare a defense. A spokesperson for the World Health Organization (WHO) [official website] also questioned the sentences of the physicians [AP report], stating that health care workers have an ethical obligation to care for the injured, and they should not be punished for performing this duty.
Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official profile] announced last month that he will dismiss charges against some of the protesters [JURIST report] detained for their participation in pro-democracy demonstrations in the country. In June, Khalifa announced that an independent commission will investigate human rights violations [JURIST report] related to the country's pro-democracy protests. Earlier that month, the OHCHR announced that Bahrain agreed to permit a UN commission [JURIST report] to investigate human rights violations related to protests. The National Safety Courts were instituted in mid-March under Khalifa's three-month state of emergency [JURIST report] and have been internationally criticized, most recently [JURIST report] by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. The court sentenced nine citizens [JURIST report] to 20 years in prison for kidnapping a police officer in May. In April, the court handed the death sentence to four protesters, a rarity in Bahrain, and upheld the sentences [JURIST reports] for two of the men who were accused of murdering police officers. All of the charges levied in the National Safety Court have been disputed by Bahraini citizens and international rights organizations.