International observers are reacting with a mix of relief and anger at the final verdict announced today in Bahrain's highest court in the case of 20 medics accused of fomenting revolution in the Persian Gulf state. While most of the charges were dropped—the prosecution relied on confessions that the medics claim were extracted through torture—the defendants still face jail time ranging up to 5 years.
The verdict is a small victory for the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies. The consortium of scientists, doctors, and engineers has been pressuring Bahrain's king to release the medics and clear them of all charges. "We are relieved that nine were acquitted and that charges were reduced for others, but none of them should have been brought to trial in the first place," says Carol Corillon, the consortium's director. She adds that the pressure on Bahrain will continue. "[We] will certainly continue to speak out in support of our unjustly imprisoned colleagues."
Meanwhile, Bahraini doctors say that they are still in danger of political reprisals. "The hospital is still militarized and surrounded by check points to identify and arrest any injured protestor seeking medical help," says Amal Habib, an ophthalmologist who has fled Bahrain and is seeking asylum abroad. "The story of the struggle of the medics in Bahrain does not end by today's verdicts. … Patients should have access to medical care without the fear of arrest, and the doctors should be able to treat any patient without the fear of prosecution."