Bahraini court rejects 9 medics’ final appeal

Bahrain’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, has rejected a final appeal by nine medics, upholding prison sentences for their alleged role in the 2011 pro-democracy uprising. The medics were convicted of weapons possession, incitement, and participating in illegal demonstrations. The medics worked at Salmaniya Medical Center in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, which treated many who ...

AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

Bahrain's highest court, the Court of Cassation, has rejected a final appeal by nine medics, upholding prison sentences for their alleged role in the 2011 pro-democracy uprising. The medics were convicted of weapons possession, incitement, and participating in illegal demonstrations. The medics worked at Salmaniya Medical Center in Bahrain's capital, Manama, which treated many who were injured in the government's crackdown on protests starting in February 2011. Some of the medics spoke out against violence by security forces and joined protests after ambulances were targeted. At least 95 health workers were arrested. Dr. Ali al-Ekri, former senior surgeon at the Salmaniya hospital, was sentenced to five* years in prison, and eight other medics were given sentences between a month and three years. Nine other health workers had their convictions overturned in June and two others, who were previously sentenced to 15 years, have been in hiding. Ekri said the ruling could be politically motivated stating, "We did not get a fair trial ... We think we are a card being used by the regime to negotiate with the opposition." The case has drawn international criticism over Bahrain's questionable efforts at political reform and could fuel further regional unrest.

Syria

Fighting in Aleppo's Old City sparked a fire in the ancient souk, the covered market and UNESCO world heritage site that is the largest of its kind in the world, destroying 1,500 shops. The circumstances surrounding the fire, which started Saturday morning and still burns, remain unclear but the Syrian opposition and the government are blaming each other. Opposition forces launched an offensive in Aleppo seeking to "liberate" pro-government neighborhoods. In an unverified report by an antigovernment activist from Aleppo, the opposition fighters hid in the Madiq citadel, and government forces severely damaged it with shelling. Fighting has spread to other areas of the Old City, with fires breaking out in the Zahrawi, Aqaba, and Bab Al Nasr markets. According to UNESCO, five of Syria's world heritage sites have already been damaged. According to UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, Syria is obligated to protect its heritage sites as a signatory to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. Government forces additionally shelled opposition strongholds in the eastern suburbs of Damascus on Monday and launched air strikes on the northern Idlib town of Salqeen, killing at least 17 people, according to activists. Meanwhile, Al Arabiya released highly classified Syrian documents discovered by the opposition, one of which revealed that the pilots of a Turkish jet downed in June survived the crash and were later killed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Al Arabiya said it has hundreds of the secret documents and will release significant ones over the next two weeks.

Bahrain’s highest court, the Court of Cassation, has rejected a final appeal by nine medics, upholding prison sentences for their alleged role in the 2011 pro-democracy uprising. The medics were convicted of weapons possession, incitement, and participating in illegal demonstrations. The medics worked at Salmaniya Medical Center in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, which treated many who were injured in the government’s crackdown on protests starting in February 2011. Some of the medics spoke out against violence by security forces and joined protests after ambulances were targeted. At least 95 health workers were arrested. Dr. Ali al-Ekri, former senior surgeon at the Salmaniya hospital, was sentenced to five* years in prison, and eight other medics were given sentences between a month and three years. Nine other health workers had their convictions overturned in June and two others, who were previously sentenced to 15 years, have been in hiding. Ekri said the ruling could be politically motivated stating, "We did not get a fair trial … We think we are a card being used by the regime to negotiate with the opposition." The case has drawn international criticism over Bahrain’s questionable efforts at political reform and could fuel further regional unrest.

Syria

Fighting in Aleppo’s Old City sparked a fire in the ancient souk, the covered market and UNESCO world heritage site that is the largest of its kind in the world, destroying 1,500 shops. The circumstances surrounding the fire, which started Saturday morning and still burns, remain unclear but the Syrian opposition and the government are blaming each other. Opposition forces launched an offensive in Aleppo seeking to "liberate" pro-government neighborhoods. In an unverified report by an antigovernment activist from Aleppo, the opposition fighters hid in the Madiq citadel, and government forces severely damaged it with shelling. Fighting has spread to other areas of the Old City, with fires breaking out in the Zahrawi, Aqaba, and Bab Al Nasr markets. According to UNESCO, five of Syria’s world heritage sites have already been damaged. According to UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, Syria is obligated to protect its heritage sites as a signatory to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict. Government forces additionally shelled opposition strongholds in the eastern suburbs of Damascus on Monday and launched air strikes on the northern Idlib town of Salqeen, killing at least 17 people, according to activists. Meanwhile, Al Arabiya released highly classified Syrian documents discovered by the opposition, one of which revealed that the pilots of a Turkish jet downed in June survived the crash and were later killed by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Al Arabiya said it has hundreds of the secret documents and will release significant ones over the next two weeks.

Headlines  

  • A wave of bombings in Iraq on Sunday killed at least 32 people and injured about 100, marking September as the bloodiest month for the country in two years.
  • The World Food Programme said that political instability and surging food and fuel prices are increasing food insecurity in Yemen, with half the population going to bed hungry every night.
  • The body of former Palestinian President Yasir Arafat will be exhumed to confirm if he might have died from poisoning.
  • A week after barring the site, Iran has lifted the block on Gmail after complaints in parliament.

Arguments and Analysis

Waiting for an Arab Spring of Ideas‘ (Tariq Ramadan, The New York Times)

"There can be no true democracy in the Middle East without a profound restructuring of economic priorities, which in turn can come about only by combating corruption, limiting the prerogatives of the military, and, above all, reconsidering economic relations with other countries and the gross inequalities of wealth and income within Muslim countries. The emergence of a dynamic civil society is a precondition of success. Concern for free and critical thought must take the form of educational policies to build schools and universities, revise outdated curriculums and enable women to study, work and become financially independent.

The Arab world has shaken itself out of its lethargy after decades of apparent resignation and silence. But the uprisings do not yet amount to a revolution. The Arab world must confront its historical demons and tackle its infirmities and its contradictions: when it turns to the task, the awakening will truly have begun."

Hamas corruption weighs heavily on Gaza‘ (Tamir Haddad, The Daily Star)

"Recently, an official of the Finance Ministry in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip announced that since 2006 the office had not received a single report of corruption. Whether or not this is true, the fact is that Hamas corruption is not only pervasive in Gaza, it has also been detrimental to the greater social and economic good.

The principal vehicle of Hamas corruption is excessive taxation. One of Gaza’s biggest revenue cows, tunnel smuggling into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, has borne the brunt of this graft. For the over 1,200 tunnels, tariffs of up to 15 percent are imposed on the thousands of tons of goods being brought in daily. Yet most are collected off the books, and of the 2,400 near-millionaires in Gaza, most are Hamas affiliates responsible for monitoring tunnels, according to Palestinian Authority officials. This is why when private tunnels began drawing business away from tunnels run by those close to Hamas, the movement declared them illegal, and implemented a mandatory $3,000 license to continue operation."

Muslim Rage Is About Politics, Not Religion‘ (Husain Haqqani, Newsweek)

"Decline, weakness, impotence, and helplessness are the words repeated most frequently in the speeches and writings of today’s Muslim leaders. All four are conditions that feed outrage-the response of people lacking real power to change their circumstances. Ironically that response is cultivated by leaders who could channel their people’s energy toward real solutions. Instead of orchestrating hate on the pretext of even the most insignificant provocation, Muslim leaders could extend literacy, expand education, and make their nations’ economies more competitive. But as in Western democracies, the politics of wedge issues is always easier to pursue. Rising Islamophobia in Europe and North America helps Islamists keep things on the boil. "Us versus them" is always a useful distraction from "us versus our problems.""

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey 

The original post inaccurately stated that Dr. Ali al-Ekri was sentenced to eight years in prison, when in fact his sentence was reduced from 15 years to five. 

<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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