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In Arab Spring, mercy is as mercy does

When Obama promises to support the Arab Spring, he can't then sell weapons to Bahrain, even as that dictatorship gives harsh sentences to doctors who treat wounded protesters.

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The 2011 Nobel Peace Prize will be announced Friday and the winners will probably be one or more leaders of the Arab Spring who helped liberate Tunisia and Egypt – peacefully.

But the revolutions in most Arab states are still rumbling, often violently. And if there are active moral heroes to be honored, one group could be 20 doctors, nurses, and paramedics in Bahrain, a tiny Gulf kingdom that also happens to host the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

Last Thursday, this selfless group was given prison sentences ranging from five to 10 years after treating wounded protesters – and there were many in need of such help. Ever since pro-democracy demonstrations began in Bahrain last February, an estimated 120 people have been killed. Hundreds more have been injured and thousands were arrested or lost their jobs.

The Bahrain 20 weren’t among the protesters. Like Red Cross medics on a battlefield who extend mercy to anyone, they may have even treated injured soldiers and police who shot or beat protesters. Their harsh sentences were handed down by a special “security” court, evoking strong criticism from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and a mild rebuke about judicial fairness from the United States.

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