Six doctors from Dublin have been sentenced to prison in Bahrain for treating protestors involved in the pro-democracy unrest earlier this year.

The RCSI trained doctors, who are among a group of 20 others, have been given sentences of between 5 and 15 years in prison. Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore has expressed “deep concern” over the length of the sentences.

UCD Professor Eoin O’Brien of the Conway Institute travelled to Bahrain as part of an Irish delegation to offer support to the detained. Upon returning, he stated that he was “in no doubt that the doctors and medical personnel had been subjected to human rights abuses, including kidnapping, detention without trial in solitary confinement, and the extraction of confessions under torture.”

Doctors and nurses have expressed shock at the sentences. Sheila Dickinson, president of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, said there was “no justification” for the treatment and sentences of the medics.

The Irish government has contacted the Bahraini government in the last week concerning the abuses of human rights that the prisoners have suffered. A UN spokesperson has expressed “severe concerns” over sentences given out in a military court with “serious due process irregularities.”

The RCSI, which has invested €60 million in a campus in Bahrain, has “noted” the sentences passed down. UCD Professor Muiris Fitzgerald of the medical faculty has criticised the RCSI’s response.

Dr. Ali al-Akri, one of the convicted, has said that “I will do what I have to do, if that means Bahrain will be a better place. All of the doctors convicted with me will do the same.”

Other protestors in Bahrain have described the pro-democracy unrest earlier this year as a “stillborn promise.” The rising was crushed soon after it began, and was overshadowed in the wider political world by events in Libya and Syria. The aftermath of the events has left former hopefuls “crushed and dispirited.”

Dr. al-Akri has recalled the day that the injured protestors flooded to his hospital and were placed in his charge. He says that in that moment when all that was being done was of medical necessity “we knew that our issue was about politics.”

Timothy Potenz