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Bahrain clears 21 medics of charges in protests

From Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN
April 1, 2013 -- Updated 1154 GMT (1954 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The allegations date back to the unrest in Bahrain last year
  • Medics are accused of turning a hospital into "illegal gatherings," the government says
  • Critics say the medics were targeted for treating injured protesters

(CNN) -- An appeals court in Bahrain has overturned the conviction of 21 medics for their role in anti-government protests two years ago.

Prosecutors had convicted about two dozen medics on misdemeanor charges, saying they had turned the Salmaniya Medical Center in the capital Manama into "a place of illegal gatherings and strikes, in violation of laws" during the protests.

On Thursday, the High Civil Court of Appeal acquitted 21 medics. Two others who did not show up to court lost their right to file an appeal, the Bahrain News Agency reported.

Human rights groups have always said the medics were just treating injured demonstrators.

2012: Revolution deferred in Bahrain

Protests in Bahrain started in February 2011 spurred by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

But demonstrations in Bahrain failed to gain the traction of other Arab Spring uprisings after a crackdown by authorities in the island state. The crackdown was backed by troops from nearby Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

That November, Bahrain's Independent Commission of Inquiry issued a report critical of authorities' reactions to the protests.

The independent commission, set up by the king, concluded that the police had used excessive force and torture in their response to the protests in Sunni-ruled, Shiite-majority country.

Abuse of detainees in the crackdown included beatings with metal pipes and batons, and threats of rape and electrocution, according to Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, the commission chairman.

The report recommended reforms to the country's law and better training of its security forces, as well as other measures.

Bahrain plays a key strategic role in the Middle East and is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet headquarte

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