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Middle East
Bahrain frees two former opposition MPs
Move comes amid pro-reform gestures that state-appointed investigator says could lead to release of 150 more detainees.
Last Modified: 07 Aug 2011 21:38
Former parliamentarian Matar Ibrahim Matar was among those released on Sunday [Reuters]

Bahrain has freed two former parliamentarians from the Shia opposition and several other detained activists who were arrested in anti-government protests earlier this year.

The release on Sunday of ex-MPs Jawad Fairouz and Matar Ibrahim Matar, of the Al-Wefaq opposition party, follows a claim from the head of a state-appointed commission on the protests that Bahrain would eventually release about 150 detainees.

The move also comes after Bahrain's king accepted a series of political reforms drawn up by a government-sanctioned national dialogue committee created to address popular grievances, The Associated Press reported.

Bahrain has sentenced eight opposition members to life imprisonment for their involvement in the pro-democracy protests that spread across the island nation in March.

More than 1,000 people were detained by the government during the protests and at least four activists died in custody.

Vow to continue

The state news agency said the detainees were released because the time they spent in custody may amount to the sentence they would receive after trial.

Fairooz and Matar were arrested in May on anti-state security charges and still face trial. Last month, the two pleaded not guilty to spreading false news and joining illegal gatherings.

"I am part of the peaceful opposition that will continue its legitimate demands for meaningful reforms,'' Matar told the AP after his release.

The two resigned from parliament along with the rest of the Wefaq bloc in February following the government crackdown on anti-government protests.

Also set free on Sunday was Mohammed al-Tajir, a human rights lawyer, who has was taken into custody in April.

The government crushed protests by implementing a series of emergency laws and with the help of foreign troops from neighbouring Gulf countries.

Activists and rights group say at least 32 people were killed during the uprising earlier this year.

Emergency laws were lifted in June, but activists and witnesses have told the AP that riot police still use sound bombs and tear gas on a regular basis to confront protesters.

Source:
Agencies
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