Gulf Daily News- March 21, 2012

FORMER health minister Faisal Al Hamer allegedly ordered ambulances to stop going to the former GCC (Pearl) roundabout during the unrest, a court heard yesterday.

He also lied about the deaths of protesters during the initial stages of last year's troubles, according to video footage shown by defence lawyers in the case of 20 medics convicted of carrying out serious offences during the turmoil.

The 50-minute production stated the minister had taken the decision to stop ambulances from reaching the former roundabout based on orders from the Interior Ministry.

It included an interview broadcast on Bahrain TV showing Dr Al Hamer saying there were no civilian deaths between February 14 and February 17.

However, a narrator in the video said four people died during that period.

The video claimed this included one person who died at the former roundabout after ambulances failed to reach injured civilians in time as a result Dr Al Hamer's orders.

It also showed medics holding rallies at Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) calling for the resignation of the former minister, who was removed from his position during a Cabinet reshuffle at the end of February last year.

"This rally was no different from the other pro-government rally held by medics at the SMC in May last year earlier broadcasted on Bahrain TV," said the narrator.

The video also featured a recording of a call between paramedics and police, which showed authorities ordering ambulances not to go to the roundabout.

"A civilian called for an ambulance to be sent to the roundabout," said a paramedic.

"Don't send any ambulances to the roundabout, just don't mind him," replied the policeman.

Footage of medics injured after allegedly being attacked by policemen as they tried to reach the roundabout to treat protesters was also shown.

Mr Al Hamer was replaced by Nazar Al Baharna, who resigned in March after security forces moved in to secure SMC.

During the video footage Dr Al Baharna said the medics had done an "amazing job" during the unrest and denied claims they held patients hostage, had weapons and refused to treat patients.

"The medics have been treating all patients and did not differentiate between a patient and another, they did not carry weapons in ambulances or hold hostages but in fact helped in treating Asian patients," he said during the recording.

The hearing, at the Supreme Criminal Appeals Court, was adjourned to March 28 to summon a medical panel.

Representatives from the French and US Embassies, families and medics were present.

The medics are appealing against convictions for illegally occupying SMC during the unrest and possessing weapons by the National Safety Court.

They were also found guilty of hiding injured policemen, not treating patients from a certain sect, taking part in an illegal gathering, inciting hatred against the regime and reporting falsified news.

Prosecutors earlier brought two Kalashnikovs, 168 bullets, three Molotov cocktails, four ammunition cartridges and other weapons allegedly confiscated by police from SMC during unrest.

Chains used in religious rituals, screwdrivers, a sword, daggers and a scythe were also previously submitted as evidence.

Several charges against the medics were earlier dropped including inciting hatred against the regime and reporting falsified news, as well as taking part in illegal gatherings and not carrying out their professional duties properly.