Thursday, February 24, 2011

Political prisoners freed in Bahrain amid torture claims (Roundup)


Feb 23, 2011, 18:03 GMT

Cairo - Bahrain on Wednesday released 308 political prisoners, the government said, many of whom claimed to have been tortured.

The releases were part of an attempt by the government to contain the massive demonstrations which have been taking place in the capital Manama since February 14 and in which the government says seven people have been killed.
Those released included 25 Shiite Muslim activists who had been accused of attempting to overthrow King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and his government, Arab media reported.

The government said that claims of torture would be investigated.

Al Khalifa ordered the release late Tuesday, as his government vowed to allow peaceful demonstrations to take place.

The king has also called for dialogue between the government and the opposition.

But opposition groups on Wednesday continued to insist they would not negotiate with the government until the current cabinet is removed and pledges were in place to hold free and fair parliamentary elections.

Others called for the overthrow of the regime.

Shiite Muslims make up over 70 per cent of Bahrain's population but have been politically underrepresented under the rule of King al-Khalifa, himself a Sunni Muslim.

Tens of thousands of protesters on Wednesday continued to camp out in Manama's Lulu Square, welcoming the released detainees as they arrived.

The square has been the focal point of the protests, inspired by successful anti-government movements in Tunisia and Egypt.

Demonstrators on Wednesday said they would not go home until all detainees had been released, threatening to call another general strike.

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