WASHINGTON — The United States said it was "deeply disturbed" by the prison sentences meted out by a Bahraini court to 20 Shiite medics charged with trying to overthrow the regime.
Thirteen medics were sentenced to 15 years in jail for their roles in pro-reform protests crushed in mid-March, two others to 10 years and five to five years, the BNA state news agency cited a prosecutor as saying.
The national safety court in which they were tried was set up under a three-month quasi-emergency law declared by King Hamad ahead of the crackdown on the protests led by the Shiite majority of the Sunni-ruled Gulf nation.
"We are deeply disturbed by the sentencing today of 20 medical professionals by the National Safety Court in Bahrain," deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement on Thursday.
"We continue to urge the Bahraini government to abide by its commitment to transparent judicial proceedings, including a fair trial, access to attorneys, and verdicts based on credible evidence conducted in full accordance with Bahraini law and Bahrain's international legal obligations."
Toner also said Washington was concerned about the "trials of civilians, including medical personnel, in military courts and the fairness of those proceedings."
"We call on the government of Bahrain and all citizens to create a climate conducive for reconciliation, meaningful dialogue, and reform that... will bring peaceful change that is responsive to the aspirations of all Bahrainis," he added.
The medics all worked at the Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama, which was stormed by security forces after they drove protesters on March 16 out of the nearby Pearl Square -- the focal point of protests inspired by uprisings that have swept the Arab world.
The medics included 13 doctors, one dentist, nurses and paramedics.
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