Bahrain condemned for harsh sentences

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LONDON, Sept. 30 (UPI) — Jail sentences given to healthcare workers in Bahrain appear to be disproportionate to the charges brought against them, London said.

A group of Bahraini doctors and nurses were given prison sentences ranging from 5-15 years for spreading “stories and lies” and for trying to topple the regime. All of those sentenced to prison had worked at the Salmaniya medical complex in Manama, which was raided by Bahraini security forces in March as part of a crackdown on a Shiite uprising in the country.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague, in a statement, said his government was “deeply concerned” by the sentences and the death penalty imposed on opposition leaders in the country.

“These sentences appear disproportionate to the charges brought,” he said. “These are worrying developments that could undermine the Bahraini government’s moves towards dialogue and the reform needed for long-term stability in Bahrain.”

Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a statement, said the penalties handed down to civilians in a military court were troubling.

“We call on the government to ensure that every detained person is charged with a recognizable criminal offense and has enough time to prepare a defense case,” he said.

Bahrain was rapped for its response to a Shiite uprising against the minority Sunni leadership early this year. The kingdom had pledged to move forward with reforms, however.

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