Barhain Frees More Political Prisoners

Thousands of anti-government protesters marched to Manama’s Pearl Square on Wednesday after Bahrain’s king released a number of political prisoners, an acknowledgment by the Sunni ruler of the mounting pressure being placed on him by the Shiite opposition.

The inmates included 23 Shiite activists on trial since last year for plotting against the state. The release underlined how much the the Gulf kingdom, a close ally of Washington, want to get reform talks with protest leaders under way. Their release was one of the major demands of the emboldened political movement seeking constitutional reform. A popular Bahraini blogger, Ali Abduleman, was also among those freed by the authorities.

A lawyer for the 23 activists, Mohammed al-Tajer, said that about 250 prisoners had been released so far. Most had been held as part of the crackdown launched on some Shi’ite opposition groups last August and during subsequent protests.

The prisoner release was a further concession to the mainly Shi’ite protesters who took to the streets last week to demand a constitutional monarchy and an elected government, emboldened by a surge of popular unrest across the Arab world.

It also preceeds the expected return to Bahrain of Hassan Mushaimaa, leader of the hardline Shi’ite Haq party, one of two people tried in absentia for his part in the alleged coup plot.

The Associated Press reported that, amid concerns that Bahrain’s unrest could spread to Saudi Arabia, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa was in Riyadh discussing his island nation’s situation with the Saudis.

Complete articles via Associated Press and Reuters

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