Medical professionals and organizations from around the world have submitted a petition to the king of Bahrain, calling for the release of a prominent doctor who has been held behind bars for five years now.
The letter posted online by Amnesty International on Thursday saw 153 doctors and nurses, along with Amnesty itself and two medical organizations, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Ali Esa Mansoor al-Ekri from prison.
Ekri was imprisoned on 17 March, 2011, when he was reportedly operating a child in Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama.
His arrest was apparently due to his treatment of people who had been injured during anti-regime peaceful protests in Manama. The physician had also in an interview denounced the excessive use of force by police and security forces against protesters during mass demonstrations that erupted across Bahrain in February-March 2011. Ekri had himself participated in the protests.
The letter, which was addressed to King Shaikh Hamad bin Issa Al Khalifa and the country’s Minister of Interior Shaikh Rashid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, expressed concern that Ekri remains behind bars “solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly.”
The letter reminded Bahraini government that Ekri has been designated by the Britain-based Amnesty as a prisoner of conscience, saying the main reason for his arrest was “his vocal denunciation” of Bahrain’s crackdown on dissent.
Bahrain arrested around 50 doctors, nurses and paramedics since the protests erupted in the Persian Gulf kingdom five years ago.
The letter slammed Bahrain for the way it has treated Ekri in prison before he was put on “a grossly unfair trial.” It said the medical professional was tortured and ill-treated during his interrogation.
“He said he was subjected to beatings, kicking, threatened with police dogs and forced to lick the floor, the soles of their boots and forced him to eat feces. He also reports that he was sexually molested and threatened with rape. He was also deprived of sleep for a week. He reports that he was forced to “confess” to possession of weapons, heading a militia and occupying the hospital,” read the letter, calling on Bahraini officials to investigate the allegations and bring to justice the culprits.
A military court initially sentenced Ekri to 15 years in prison, but the verdict was commuted to five years after an appeal was filed.
The petition’s release coincides with the fifth anniversary of uprising in Bahrain, where people have been launching protests across the nation to demand more of a say in the political system.
The uprising, however, has been met with a heavy-handed crackdown, with security forces killing more than a hundred and jailing hundreds more, including senior opposition leaders. Manama has also enjoyed the support of Saudi and Emirati troops in quelling the protests.