A court in Bahrain has sentenced 20 doctors and nurses to long jail-terms, ranging from five to 15 years, after indicting them of plotting to overthrow the government.
The medics were involved in treating injured Shia protesters during mostly peaceful protests that broke out in February and March 2011, before they were put down by the Sunni government with support from neighboring Gulf states.
Though the doctors and nurses have been acquitted of charges of stealing medication and equipment from the Salmaniya Medical Compound (SMC), a large hospital in the capital Manama, they have been charged with forcefully occupying SMC.
Other charges include inciting sectarian hatred, plotting to overthrow the ruling Sunni monarchy, refusing to treat injured police, and position of unlicensed weapons.
The medics were previously releases on bail after they went on a hunger strike, so the charges took human rights activists by surprise, who argue against the ruling, saying the doctors were only doing their job.
Relatives of the accuses doctors and nurses said in June that they were tortured to make false confessions, <a href=”http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-15105270 “>reports the BBC.
The verdicts may still be appealed at the National Safety Court of Appeals, but so far 13 of the accused will get 15 years, two will get 10 years, and five will get five years each.