The return of Mushaima could mark a new phase for the anti-government movement [EPA]

Hassan Mushaimaa, a Bahraini Shia opposition leader who was being tried in absentia in an alleged coup plot, has arrived home from exile after receiving a royal pardon.   

London-based Mushaimaa flew to Manama, the capital, from Lebanon on Saturday.

The prominent leader of the Shia Haq movement had said on his Facebook page on Monday that he would be trying to return to the Gulf Arab country after a week of unprecedented protests by majority Shia Muslims against the Sunni monarchy.

Mushaimaa said he wanted to see if the island nation's leadership was serious about dialogue or not.

He was stopped during a stopover in Beirut by Lebanese authorities, who said his name was on an international arrest warrant, and his passport was seized.

Sheikh Khalid ibn Ahmad al-Khalifa, Bahrain's foreign minister, said on Thursday that Mushaimaa, who was among 25 people charged over an alleged coup plot and who was being tried in absentia, had been pardoned and would be allowed to return home to join a national dialogue.

Constitutional monarchy

Security forces killed seven people and wounded hundreds while trying to disperse protests last week before Bahrain pulled back its army and police and allowed peaceful demonstrations in Pearl Square.

Bahrain's protesters want a constitutional monarchy instead of the existing system where citizens vote for a mostly toothless parliament and policy remains the preserve of a ruling elite centred on the Sunni al-Khalifa dynasty.

Mushaimaa's Haq party is more radical than the Shia Wefaq party, from which it split in 2006, when Wefaq contested a parliamentary election.

Haq's leaders often have often been arrested in recent years, only to receive royal pardons.

Source: Agencies