Today at his appellate court trial in Bahrain, hospital administrator Younis Ashoori could have been freed from arbitrary detention. The trumped up charges against him could have been overturned, proving to Bahrain’s citizens and the world that the Bahraini government would not dare to uphold a three-year conviction handed down last June by military court. Sadly, this was not the case.
Younis’ alleged “crime” was delivering oxygen and medical support to a camp of demonstrators during last year’s protests.
In a tactic used earlier this week against imprisoned hunger striker Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, the Government of Bahrain today postponed the appeals trial until May 9, denying Younis justice. Younis is in his 60s and suffers from serious medical conditions. Continued detention without appropriate medical care places his life in danger.
PHR met with Younis’ wife last week in Bahrain, to review the tragedy that she and her husband have endured. Younis reportedly went to the Muharaq Maternity Hospital on 20 March 2011 where he worked, despite reportedly suffering severe pain due to kidney stones.
A police officer apprehended Younis, pushed him into a car, and arbitrarily detained him. Authorities reportedly tortured Younis following his capture, and forced him to sign confessions while blindfolded.
Younis’ story has received some publicity, but not enough. Though he is a medical professional, he is not being prosecuted in connection with the 48 other medics who are in high profile trials in Bahrain for felony and misdemeanor charges. PHR continues to strongly criticize these trials.
Younis is one of a group of four other medical professionals who remain in detention. The Bahraini government has never given any reason for its decision to try the four separately. Nor has the government explained why it has refused to release Younis and his three colleagues from detention while their convictions are under appeal.
Allegedly, all four have been tortured while in custody. PHR is gravely concerned about Younis and the other three medical professionals who remain in detention. They are Hassan Matooq, sentenced to three years for participating in a public gathering; Ahmed Almushatat, sentenced to two years for transferring medications to injured protesters; and Hassan Alarabi, sentenced to six months for participating in unlicensed protest.
In early April, the Bahraini government denied PHR’s repeated requests to visit these four individuals in prison to verify their physical and mental condition. PHR has submitted numerous requests to the ministries of human rights, interior, and foreign affairs, without success.
The Bahraini government must stop punishing medical professionals for fulfilling their ethical duty to help the injured. PHR calls on the Government of Bahrain to immediately release Younis and the three others who are currently imprisoned.
There is no reason to treat these four men more harshly than the other medical professionals facing retrial, and imprison them while their cases are under appeal.
PHR also calls on the Bahraini government to uphold the rights of these civilians and convene an independent medical committee to properly investigate allegations of torture at the hands of government forces.