IAA slams distortion of facts by a Russian newspaper

Information Affairs Authority Bahrain
The Information Affairs Authority (IAA) has issued the following statement in response to an article published in Russia Today.

Dear Editor,
We are writing in strong objection to your latest article, Police raids arrest Bahraini doctors after show trial (October 2nd, 2012), for the misinformed characterization of the recent court verdicts regarding the medical personnel.
Firstly, it must be clarified and stressed that the verdicts delivered by the Court of Cassation, the highest court in the Kingdom, along with investigations carried out by the Public Prosecution, maintain their independence and the guarantee to due process, including a fair and just trial to all parties involved. This process saw the acquittal of nine medics in June, significantly reducing all the original sentences, as well as the release of three out of the remaining nine medics due to time served. In addition, all the defendants had remained out of custody throughout the trial process which is not standard practice.

It is important to emphasize that the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) did not address any criticisms towards the judiciary system or their staff, but instead entrusted them in fulfilling the recommendations proposed. To discredit the trials as a show is a misrepresentation of Bahrain s judicial practice.

Secondly, it should be brought to your attention the findings of the independent commission regarding the activities of the medical staff during the peak of the unrest last year. The report stated that open areas outside the SMC buildings were occupied by protesters, who controlled the entrances and exits , including the Emergency Section, the ICU, and most of SMC s ground level (para 847, 833). In addition, the medical staff moved in and out of their roles as political activists and medical personnel (para 834), including hosting unauthorized marches inside and outside the hospital (para 837). The Commission found that the involvement of the medical personnel in political activities on and around SMC made it difficult for them to carry out full exercise of their medical responsibilities and [were] highly disruptive to the optimum operation of an important medical facility in a time of crisis. (para 847).

These findings provide evidence that the doctors charged breached legal and ethical codes, jeopardizing the security of the country, as well as of its citizens.

Thirdly, we refute Dr. Ali Al-Ekri’s claim that the defendants failed to receive a fair trial, as the judiciary acted beyond the standard judicial procedure in favour of the defendants. In the Public Prosecution s commitment to ensure the right of each of the accused to a fair trial following the lifting of the state of national safety, Public Prosecution appealed the sentences in favour of the accused, and asked for retrial for the charges made against them, allowing them to defend themselves before civil courts. The accused similarly appealed their sentences.

The High Civil Court of Appeals reviewed the case in 16 hearings, during which the accused and their attorneys filed all forms of defence, all of which were admitted by the Court in a public trial attended by representatives of embassies of a number of countries, as well as representatives of domestic, regional and international civil rights organizations, and heavy local and foreign media coverage. The Court heard lengthy defences by the accused, either in person or through their attorneys. All exhibits, technical or medical reports and witness statements were, upon their requests, admitted into evidence.

Convictions and sentences carried by this ruling related to five charges only as stated in the referral order, which consists of 14 counts, namely promoting the change of the political regime by force and through illegal means, illegal detention of persons, instigating sectarian hatred, destruction of public property, calling for, organizing and participating in illegal demonstrations. None of the accused was tried or sentenced for any crime related to their practice of medical profession, although the Court found in its ruling that the accused failed to fulfil their job duties and professional standards, and recommended that they be held accountable administratively, not criminally. The Court relied in its causes of conviction of the accused on testimonies of witnesses, and the physical and technical evidence of the case. It did not rely on any evidence based on the confessions made by the accused during investigations, and dropped all charges related to freedom of opinion and freedom of expression, as requested by Public Prosecution during the trial to drop those charges.
The above description illustrates that the trial process was transparent and thorough in its investigations to seek justice to all involved.
In another case the article refers to which requires clarification is the recent death of Mohammed Mushaima. Firstly, the Ministry of Health (MOH) confirmed Mushaima died due to natural causes, and not because he was denied adequate healthcare. On the contrary, Mushaima was treated on more than one occasion at Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) for sickle cell complications. He was admitted to SMC on 28 August 2012 and remained there until his death early yesterday morning. The case was then referred to the Public Prosecution for investigation.

The MOH reported yesterday that the deceased had collapsed after visiting the bathroom in his ward. A medical team attempted to resuscitate him but unfortunately they were unsuccessful. Chief Prosecutor, Muhanna Al Shaiji, stated that the Public Prosecution had been informed of the death of a patient at SMC who was being treated for sickle cell disease. Upon receiving notification, a member of the Public Prosecution accompanied by a forensic medical doctor, visited the hospital to open an investigation. The forensic medical examination corroborated the hospital s report that the death was natural and caused by sickle cell complications. The Medical Examiner s report confirmed there were no injuries on the body which could indicate criminal action, and therefore the Public Prosecution agreed to hand over the dead body to his family for burial.

Mushaima was originally sentenced to seven years after being found guilty of charges relating to the vandalism, rioting, assaulting a police officer, and resisting arrest which took place at Bahrain s Financial Harbor in March 2011. These are legitimate charges where the deceased s violations posed a serious security threat, and can certainly not be labelled as a prisoner of conscience as the author suggests.

We have voiced our concerns regarding your misguided reporting in the past, and continue to insist that you verify the information you disseminate to ensure their accuracy and your credibility.

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