The Middle East Channel

Bahrain medics’ jail terms reduced after appeals

Bahrain’s appeals court acquitted nine medics and convicted nine others on Thursday while also reducing the latter’s sentences. The medics, who are all Shiite Muslims, had been convicted for their involvement in pro-democracy protests in February and March 2011 in which they treated  injured protesters. In September 2011, the medics were found guilty of publically ...

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Doctors and nurses gather outside Salmaniya medical complex before marching towards Pearl Square in the Bahraini capital Manama on February 20, 2011 to demand the resignation of Education Minister Majed bin Ali al-Nuaimi and Health Minister Faisal al-Hamr as the tiny Gulf kingdom witnessed another day of anti-regime protests calling for reform. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

Bahrain's appeals court acquitted nine medics and convicted nine others on Thursday while also reducing the latter's sentences. The medics, who are all Shiite Muslims, had been convicted for their involvement in pro-democracy protests in February and March 2011 in which they treated  injured protesters. In September 2011, the medics were found guilty of publically inciting "hatred and contempt" and attempting to overthrow the government. The charges included weapons possession and occupying the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Bahrain's capital, Manama. They were also accused of blocking Sunni Muslims from the hospital. The 20 doctors and nurses were initially sentenced five to 15 years in prison. Senior orthopedic surgeon, Ali al-Ekry, had his sentenced reduced to five years, another's term was reduced to three years, and the rest were decreased to a year. Two of the medics did not appeal and are believed to either be in hiding or to have left Bahrain. The incarceration of the medics drew widespread international condemnation, which became particularly intense as reports emerged that most of them had been tortured while in custody.

Syria

U.N. monitors were allowed access on Thursday to the embattled town of Haffa, after the Syrian government said it had been "cleansed." The observers were blocked for two days from the site after the Syrian regime announced it had regained control after eight days of fierce clashes. The U.N. envoy found the town almost deserted; buildings had burned down and a single corpse lay in a street. Violence has steadily escalated to a civil war, according to the United Nations. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced the death toll since March 2011 has reached 14,476, with 2,302 killed just in the past month. Tensions have increased between the United States and Russia over a course of action on Syria. On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Russia of supplying Bashar al-Assad's government with attack helicopters. Russia accused the United States of hypocrisy saying it supplied other countries in the region with weapons used to suppress demonstrations. Clinton did not clarify if the helicopters provided by Russia were new shipments or routinely refurbished aircraft. According to a U.S. Department of Defense official, Clinton "put a little spin on it to put the Russians in a difficult position." The United States has ramped up its efforts to support the Syrian opposition with "logistics, not arms." The Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department are coordinating with opposition groups, along with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, to develop supply routes and conduct communications training.

Bahrain’s appeals court acquitted nine medics and convicted nine others on Thursday while also reducing the latter’s sentences. The medics, who are all Shiite Muslims, had been convicted for their involvement in pro-democracy protests in February and March 2011 in which they treated  injured protesters. In September 2011, the medics were found guilty of publically inciting "hatred and contempt" and attempting to overthrow the government. The charges included weapons possession and occupying the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Bahrain’s capital, Manama. They were also accused of blocking Sunni Muslims from the hospital. The 20 doctors and nurses were initially sentenced five to 15 years in prison. Senior orthopedic surgeon, Ali al-Ekry, had his sentenced reduced to five years, another’s term was reduced to three years, and the rest were decreased to a year. Two of the medics did not appeal and are believed to either be in hiding or to have left Bahrain. The incarceration of the medics drew widespread international condemnation, which became particularly intense as reports emerged that most of them had been tortured while in custody.

Syria

U.N. monitors were allowed access on Thursday to the embattled town of Haffa, after the Syrian government said it had been "cleansed." The observers were blocked for two days from the site after the Syrian regime announced it had regained control after eight days of fierce clashes. The U.N. envoy found the town almost deserted; buildings had burned down and a single corpse lay in a street. Violence has steadily escalated to a civil war, according to the United Nations. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced the death toll since March 2011 has reached 14,476, with 2,302 killed just in the past month. Tensions have increased between the United States and Russia over a course of action on Syria. On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton accused Russia of supplying Bashar al-Assad’s government with attack helicopters. Russia accused the United States of hypocrisy saying it supplied other countries in the region with weapons used to suppress demonstrations. Clinton did not clarify if the helicopters provided by Russia were new shipments or routinely refurbished aircraft. According to a U.S. Department of Defense official, Clinton "put a little spin on it to put the Russians in a difficult position." The United States has ramped up its efforts to support the Syrian opposition with "logistics, not arms." The Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department are coordinating with opposition groups, along with Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, to develop supply routes and conduct communications training.

Headlines  

  • Egypt’s ruling military council has reinstituted martial law, raising concerns that Ahmed Shafiq might be banned from presidential elections and run-offs may be postponed.
  • Libya’s Supreme Court declared a law passed in May banning the glorification of former leader Muammar al-Qaddafi unconstitutional.
  • Two charities are pushing for the Israeli blockade on Gaza to be lifted after finding its only fresh water source too contaminated for consumption.

Arguments & Analysis 

How Drones Help Al Qaeda‘ (Ibrahim Mothana, The New York Times)

""Dear Obama, when a U.S. drone missile kills a child in Yemen, the father will go to war with you, guaranteed. Nothing to do with Al Qaeda," a Yemeni lawyer warned on Twitter last month. President Obama should keep this message in mind before ordering more drone strikes like Wednesday’s, which local officials say killed 27 people, or the May 15 strike that killed at least eight Yemeni civilians. Drone strikes are causing more and more Yemenis to hate America and join radical militants; they are not driven by ideology but rather by a sense of revenge and despair. Robert Grenier, the former head of the C.I.A.’s counterterrorism center, has warned that the American drone program in Yemen risks turning the country into a safe haven for Al Qaeda like the tribal areas of Pakistan – "the Arabian equivalent of Waziristan." Anti-Americanism is far less prevalent in Yemen than in Pakistan. But rather than winning the hearts and minds of Yemeni civilians, America is alienating them by killing their relatives and friends. Indeed, the drone program is leading to the Talibanization of vast tribal areas and the radicalization of people who could otherwise be America’s allies in the fight against terrorism in Yemen."

Middle East: the Syrian Cockpit‘ (The Guardian)

"It is probably fair to say that what unites most outside powers is a desire to avoid an outcome which would be against their national interests rather than a positive desire for a particular result. Russia and Iran do not want to see an ally go down the tube, yet Moscow does not want to be saddled with a regime that cannot control its own people. Even the Iranians probably note, as they supply advisers and security equipment to their Syrian friends, that Iran dealt with its own problems of public disorder without resorting to tanks or artillery. Nobody wants to lose an ally but nobody wants an ally who is crippled. Probably only Saudi Arabia, intent on making Syria into a Sunni country again, and at the same time striking a blow against Iran, has anything like an unalloyed view of the situation."

Give Obama Elbow Room on Iran‘ (Trita Parsi, The New York Times)

"Two central factors are driving Washington’s negotiation strategy at this point. The first is Congressional obstructionism and President Obama’s limited room to maneuver in an election year. The second is outsize expectations about what the current sanctions against Iran can achieve. Both must be abandoned if talks are to succeed. Mr. Obama needs a continuing diplomatic process to calm the oil markets because of the coming election. Yet, precisely because of the election, he has limited ability to offer the Iranians relief from sanctions in return for nuclear concessions. Congress is actively seeking to make a deal on the nuclear issue impossible by imposing unfeasible red lines, setting unachievable objectives – and depriving the executive branch of the freedom to bargain."

Deadly Reprisals: Deliberate Killings and Other Abuses by Syria’s Armed Forces‘ (Amnesty International)

"Syrian government armed forces and militias are rampaging through towns and villages, systematically dragging men from their homes and summarily executing them. They are burning homes and property and sometimes the bodies of those they have killed in cold blood. They are recklessly shelling and shooting into residential areas, killing and injuring men, women and children. They are routinely torturing detainees, sometimes to death. In recent field investigations in Syria, Amnesty International has found disturbing new evidence of grave abuses – many of which amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes – committed by the Syrian army in towns and villages around Idlib, and Aleppo, as well as in the Jebel al-Zawiyah and Jebel al-Oustani areas (north-west of Hama) between late February and late May 2012. Towns and villages are being kept under virtual siege by troops who fire indiscriminately into these areas and target those moving in and out of them."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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