Bahrain arrests medics for treating protesters

Bahrain has detained a number of doctors and other medical staff as part of a crackdown on mainly Shi’ite pro-democracy protesters in the Sunni-led Gulf Arab kingdom, the opposition and an activist said on Tuesday.

Bahrain’s rulers crushed protests by majority Shi’ites protests last month, deploying security forces throughout the capital and calling in troops from Sunni-led Gulf neighbours Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The main Shi’ite opposition party Wefaq said in a statement security forces had arrived at two medical centres, Ibn Sina and al-Razi, and detained an unknown number of people.

“They detained doctors, nurses and other staff [members] and brought them to an unknown location. We are worried what happened to them,” said Wefaq politician Mattar Ibrahim Mattar. “I cannot reach by phone my brother who works in Razi,” he said.

An activist who works for the government said he saw more than a dozen members of the security forces surrounding al-Razi medical centre while arrests were made inside.

“They told me to go away when I asked what was going on,” he said, declining to be identified for fear of reprisal.

There was no immediate government comment.

Treatment of protesters
Opposition and human rights groups have said the government has detained doctors who they suspect took part in protests last month or treated demonstrators.

A rolling crackdown has targeted Bahrainis who took part in weeks of street protests demanding more freedom, an end to discrimination and a constitutional monarchy in the island state, which is a United States-ally and home to the Fifth US fleet.

The Shi’ite-led uprising unnerved neighbouring Sunni countries, particularly Saudi Arabia which feared protests could spread further and embolden its own Shi’ites in the Eastern Province, home to most of the country’s massive oil resources.

Gulf Arab rulers have accused non-Arab Shi’ite Iran of interfering in Bahrain, where Shi’ites form at least 60% of the country’s Bahraini population of around 600 000.

On Tuesday, Bahrain’s Parliament, controlled by Sunni politicians since Wefaq resigned its seats after the crackdown began, called on the government to seize the land on which the Iranian embassy is located, state news agency BNA said.

Bahraini officials have accused Iran and Lebanese Shi’ite movement Hezbollah of masterminding the protests. Iran has complained to the United Nations over the presence of foreign troops and treatment of protesters. — Reuters

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