MICHELE NORRIS: From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris. In Bahrain, the government has shut down the offices of the international medical aid group, Doctors Without Borders. It's known there by the acronym of its French name, MSF. The group had been aiding protesters who were injured in clashes with security forces. And NPR's Kelly McEvers was in Bahrain when the government moved against MSF. She reports the trouble began about two weeks ago.
KELLY MCEVERS: Activists say the trouble started when a young man who'd been protesting in his village was shot in the head at close range by police firing a tear-gas canister. The protester went to the local office of MSF. Doctors there realized he was in critical condition. They called an ambulance, and the patient went to the hospital. The next day 14 police vehicles pulled up to the MSF office.
Okay, so I'm standing in front of the villa, the rented villa that used to be the office for Medecins Sans Frontieres. The door is locked. There's nobody here. Just a few days ago, authorities in police cars came and raided this building, reportedly took away furniture, medicine, and patient files.
And arrested the local driver, Saeed Mahdi. The government says Mahdi lied about how the protester had been injured. A press release distributed by a Washington-based lobbying firm that's been contracted by the Bahraini government, says Mahdi was charged with providing false information and providing medical services without a license.
Here's Mahdi's lawyer, Reem Khalaf, a few days after he was arrested.
REEM KHALAF: All that I knew from the newspapers is that he said, yes, I did that. Of course, after maybe after beating him or maybe he didn't even say it. Maybe they just said that he said it.
MCEVERS: At issue is the fact that the medical community in Bahrain has become a battleground. During the crackdown, dozens of doctors and medics were arrested and accused of deepening protesters wounds. And in some cases, even killing protesters to make the government look bad.
Now, activists say the main government-run hospital has become a prison of sorts, with injured protesters being detained on site and held incommunicado.
MSF says it was providing a service for people too afraid to seek help in such a hospital. The government says it was unaware MSF was operating in Bahrain. MSF spokesman Jerome Oberreit disputes that claim.
JEROME OBERREIT: We've systematically been transparent with the Bahraini authorities about our presence in Bahrain. On numerous occasions, have submitted proposals to run actually formal clinics, to be able to follow patients to hospital. And while they've received these proposals, they've never actually been answered to.
MCEVERS: Mansoor al-Jamri used to edit Bahrain's only independent newspaper. He was forced from his job during the crackdown, after being accused of printing false information. Jamri says despite the government's recent efforts to remake its image - hiring PR firms, launching a national dialogue, and inviting legal experts to investigate wrongdoing - it's cases like this that show officials are not serious about reconciliation.
MANSOOR AL: We would like to see a brave government brave in the sense that it will face up to the mistakes that had been committed in Bahrain, and to reconcile the situation directly with the people. Any maneuvering will only waste time, waste energy, and also possibly lose Bahrain the opportunity to recover.
MCEVERS: MSF has confirmed that their driver, Saeed Mahdi, recently was released from detention. But his charges are still pending. The condition of the protester who was shot in the head with a tear gas canister, then taken to the hospital, remains unknown.
Kelly McEvers, NPR News.
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