Middle East
Bahrain king pardons some protesters
King Hamad offers compensation to victims of February crackdown, but says protest-related trials will continue.
Last Modified: 28 Aug 2011 20:42
Anti government protesters were camped in central Manama the capital for a month before they were removed [EPA]

Bahrain will dismiss charges against some people detained during a deadly government crackdown against pro-democracy protests earlier this year, the Gulf nation's king said in a televised speech to the nation.

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa made the pledge in an address on Sunday to mark the approaching end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan - more than six months after his government launched its crackdown.

"There are those who are charged with abusing us and senior officials in Bahrain, we today announce that we forgive them," he said.

"Although I do not like to interfere in the course of justice, I would like to confirm that all the cases of civilians will have their verdicts issued by a civil court," he said.

No clear concessions

However, he offered no clear concessions towards Bahrain's majority Shia population, who helped lead the protests and whose demands include an easing of the Sunni dynasty's hold on power, setting policies and hand picking government officials.

Bahrain's Shia make up about 70 per cent of the island kingdom's 525,000 citizens, and complain that they face widespread discrimination, such as being excluded from top political and security posts.

Rights groups say at least 32 people have been killed and hundreds arrested since the protests began in February, inspired by other Arab uprisings.

After the protests, thousands of employees lost their jobs in apparent punishment for supporting the demonstrations, while students were dismissed from schools and universities.

King Hamad said that he had given orders to solve the problem of employees and students who were dismissed.

"When we see workers at their work places and students at their learning institutions, while some other workers are not working and other students are not studying, we are prompted to look into their situation in order to help them join their colleagues and classmates," he said.

"These are our orders to the concerned institutions and they should implement them more quickly," he added.

Compensation claims

King Hamad urged those who had been mistreated in custody in the aftermath of the crackdown to file a complaint, saying that the law allows compensation for them.

"The recent period was painful to all of us. Although we live in one  country, some have forgotten the inevitability of co-existence. Therefore, we should not abandon our belief in having the same and common future, and should not lose trust in each other as brothers, colleagues and citizens," he said.

The Bahraini security forces, boosted by Saudi led troops from elsewhere in the Gulf, crushed the protests in March after allowing demonstrators to camp in central Manama the capital, for about one month.

Bahrain's crackdown on protests earned the staunch US ally criticism from human rights organisations, but the international community did not show the support for the protests as it did in other countries, as the West blamed Iran for instigating its co-religionists in the small kingdom to cause dissent - a claim Bahrain's Shia deny.

In July, Bahrain's leaders opened reconciliation talks, but the country's main Shia party walked out and threatened to stage further protests.

An independent fact finding panel is investigating alleged rights abuses in Bahrain and is expected to release its findings at the end of October.

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