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Bahrain convicts doctors tied to uprising

CAIRO - A court in Bahrain convicted nine doctors Thursday of crimes related to the popular uprising last year, in a case that generated international condemnation and calls on the government to reform politically.

The nine doctors, who did not appear in court when the verdicts were announced, were sentenced to between one month to five years in prison. The government said five of the doctors had already served their sentences during previous detentions. Nine other doctors were acquitted.

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Dr. Ghassan Dhaif, who was sentenced to one year on charges that included taking hostages and participating in illegal gatherings, said the verdicts were “a joke.’’

“It’s a cocktail of baseless sentences,’’ Dhaif said in a telephone interview. “We were arrested arbitrarily, and we were tortured. It’s all politicized and based on revenge.’’

The doctors, all Shi’ites, were among thousands of people arrested during a government crackdown last year, after protesters demanding greater political freedoms occupied a central roundabout in Manama, Bahrain’s capital.

The country’s largest public hospital, the Salmaniya Medical Complex, became a focal point of the conflict and a symbol of the growing sectarian divide between the Sunni monarchy and Bahrain’s Shi’ite majority, which has long complained of a system of withering official discrimination.

Many doctors said they were arrested and harassed simply for trying to treat people wounded in antigovernment protests.

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