Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Bahraini doctors and nurses charged

Medical staff who treated protesters accused of plotting to overthrow
kingdom's monarchy amid reports of more violence.

Last Modified: 06 Jun 2011 Al Jazeera

Scores of Bahraini doctors and nurses who treated injured anti-government
protesters have been charged with attempting to topple the kingdom's

The 23 doctors and 24 nurses were formally charged on Monday during a
closed door hearing in a special security court.

The 47 accused have been in detention since March, when the country
declared martial law in order to clamp down on a wave of demonstrations
that swept the tiny kingdom earlier this year.

Though the emergency law was lifted last week, Bahraini authorities have
warned opposition activists of "consequences" in case of any further
challenges to the government.

'Firing on marchers'

On Sunday, Bahraini police clashed with Shia marchers at religious
processions in villages across the country, the country's opposition
al-Wefaq movement and residents said.

Police used tear gas, rubber bullets, sound grenades and birdshot to break
up the marches, which were taking place in several Shia villages around
Manama, the country's capital, residents and members of al-Wefaq said.

This map, compiled by Bahraini blogger Fahad Desmukh, shows the sites of
reported clashes between
security forces and Shia mourners on June 5.
View the full map here.

Residents said that some gatherings were purely religious, while at others
marchers shouted slogans against the ruling al-Khalifa family, including
"The people want the fall of the regime", a chant that has become the
symbol of similar protests in Tunisia and Egypt which dethroned long-time

In Sitra, residents said that several people were injured and that a house
was set on fire.

"We condemn this attack, this kind of attack will make the situation even
worse," said Sayyed Hady of al-Wefaq. "This event is so, so normal in
Bahrain, we've been doing it for centuries ... the authorities said they
won't attack religious events, but this is what they did."

On Sunday, a government official denied that widespread clashes had taken

"There are no clashes really, there were some outlaws who caused some
problems but these were small incidents that were quickly stopped. The
situation is stable and back to normal," he told Reuters.

Journalists have been unable to verify the reports, as police have set up
checkpoints sealing many Shia-majority areas. From outside those areas,
the Reuters news agency reported that its reporters heard shouting and
smelled tear gas.

The Shia villagers, some beating their chests and chanting religious
verses, were marching to commemorate the festival of one of their 12

Months of unrest

The fresh unrest comes just two days after the country's Formula One Grand
Prix was reinstated. The race had been postponed from its original March
date due to widespread protests at the time.

As that decision was announced, security forces were engaged in a fresh
crackdown, firing tear gas and rubber bullets at activists gathered in
Manama for the funeral of a protester they said had been killed by tear
gas inhalation.

In March, Bahrain's Sunni rulers asked for military support from its Gulf
Arab neighbours to suppress the protests, which have in particular called
for democratic reforms and more rights for the country's Shia-majority

Bahrain is home to the US Navy's Fifth fleet, and as such is a key ally
for that country in the region. Saudi and Emirati forces appear to be set
to remain the country indefinitely in order to ensure that the protesters
do not achieve their goals.

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