Bahraini doctor: 'We became automatic witnesses'

Amanpour brings together jailed doctor, official
Amanpour brings together jailed doctor, official

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Amanpour brings together jailed doctor, official 06:06

Story highlights

  • Nabeel Hameed talks to CNN's Christiane Amanpour about his arrest and detention
  • The doctor describes himself as a "forced activist"
  • A government spokesman acknowledges abuses, says reform must not be rushed
  • Protests in Bahrain failed to gain the traction of other Arab Spring uprisings
A Bahraini doctor arrested and allegedly brutalized for treating an injured protester said he and other medical workers were targeted because of what they saw.
"We became automatic witnesses. That's a problem. When we saw protesters, straightaway we became automatic witnesses. And to take our credibility away, accuse us of a crime," Nabeel Hameed told CNN's Christiane Amanpour.
The doctor was arrested last year amid anti-government protests. He is expected to face trial shorty.
Demonstrations in Bahrain failed to gain the traction of other Arab Spring uprisings after a crackdown by authorities in the island state. The crackdown was backed by troops from nearby Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
In November, Bahrain's Independent Commission of Inquiry issued a report critical of authorities' reactions to the protests, which began in February 2011, spurred by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.
Hameed said he was on call, one of only three neurosurgeons at Salmaniya Hospital, on February 18, 2011, when an injured protester was brought in. The patient had been shot in the head.
"For treating him and then expressing my concerns about the way he was injured, I got labeled as a traitor," he said.
Two months later, Hameed was arrested.
He described what happened next: "They took me into an interrogation center for about four days of torture. I was not alone. I was with other doctors. They made us stand for days together ... without sleep, without toilet privileges, without anything. And in between that you get abused, you get spat at, you got insulted ... and everybody who passes by you just beats you on the head or the back."
"But the worst thing is a room, an electronically locked room ... and when the doors open, all hell breaks loose. Because you start hearing these shouts of torture. Of people inside ... Your turn is next. And my turn was next ... Somebody even took a gun to my head and threatened me with death," said Hameed.
He was later released but as a changed man, he said.
"We're doctors. We're never politicians. But I'm a forced activist maybe now," the doctor said.
Amanpour also spoke to Sheikh Abdul-Aziz bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, a royal family member who speaks for the Bahraini government.
He said the government is working toward reform and to right past wrongs, but he said the process must not be rushed. He acknowledged abuses.
"We can't rush into things -- and we intend to move at a quicker pace and to achieve the goals that we have for a better future in Bahrain," said Al Khalifa.
Last week, the United States said it would resume some arms sales to Bahrain after suspending them amid the country's crackdown on protesters.
The small island kingdom in the Persian Gulf plays a key strategic role in the Middle East and is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.