…from beneath the crooked bough, witness 230 years of brutal tyranny by the al Khalifas come to an end
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Scenes From a Bahraini “Courtroom”

Scenes From a Bahraini “Courtroom”
16 March, 2012 – Huffington Post – Brian Dooley

There they sit, squeezed onto two benches in Bahrain’s criminal court: the 20 medics who were tortured into making false confessions. They were arrested last year after treating protestors at the Salmaniya Medical Complex and telling the world the truth about what had happened.

Their ordeal began a year ago when the government seized them from their workplaces and homes and subjected them to severe beatings, sexual assault, electrocution, and other forms of torture for perceived association with the democracy protests which began in February 14, 2011.

Then in military trials almost six months ago, 20 were sentenced to between five and 15 years in prison. This is their appeal session. There they sit, 20 respected medical professionals, accused of carrying weapons to organize the overthrow of the government and other trumped-up charges.

The courtroom is small and triangular. The judge sits on a dais in one corner below a portrait of King Hamad, whose cabinet is unelected, its key posts filled with members of the royal family. His uncle has been the country’s unelected prime minister since 1971. Dressed in clothes identical to the king’s in the portrait and with the same mustache, the judge looks like an older, mini-me version of the monarch.

When the session opens in the morning, the atmosphere is an odd mix of menace and farce. The lawyers are immediately summoned to be briefed in the back room, and some of the medics shout out “Hurrah, we’re innocent, just release us!” and “Don’t forget Younis Ashoori” — a hospital administrator who has been in prison for a year and is being tried separately.

The 20 include six women. Rula al Saffar, who trained and worked as a nurse in the United States for 18 years, is sitting in a sharp grey business suit chatting to the glamorous Dr. Fatima Haji. They sit on benches to right of Court Room 11 while the rest of us — relatives, lawyers, and observers from the U.S., UK, and German embassies — sit on the three benches to the left. …more

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