A court in Bahrain ruled that an 11-year-old boy accused of taking part in protests may remain at home but must be monitored by authorities. Thursday’s ruling appeared to bring the case to a close.
Ali Hasan's case has been closely watched because he was one of the youngest demonstrators taken into custody in the unrest in the Gulf island nation.
The juvenile court judge ruled that Hasan must be monitored by a social worker for a year, according to Bahraini authorities and the boy's lawyer, Shahzalan Khamis. Visits will be scheduled once every six months.
Hasan was detained in May near his home in the capital Manama on charges of “joining an illegal gathering” and other claims related to ongoing protests in the country. The government alleges he was involved in blocking roads three times on May 13.
He was allowed to return home June 11 after a month in custody. The final ruling in his case was not reached until Thursday.
Even with the court's decision, Hasan's legal status remains unclear. Khamis, his lawyer, told The Associated Press that the charges against her client have not formally been dropped.
"The decision today condemns him indirectly,'' she said after the court's ruling. “I am not happy with the decision. This boy is innocent and did not commit a crime.''
In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera last month, Hasan said he was arrested the day after protesters blocked off a street in his neighbourhood of Manama.
"It was Saturday, and we were playing," he said. "They came and blocked the street, and then left, so we went back out and played a game, and then some civilians came and took pictures of us. The next day we went to play on the high street, and then a police patrol came and chased us."
Abdul Aziz Al Khalifa, of the Bahrain Information Affairs Authority (IAA), told Al Jazeera in June that it was "incorrect" to believe Hasan was merely playing.
"The juvenile in question was not only in custody for participating in an illegal gathering, but for his involvement in burning tyres and road blocks," he said. "We have an obligation to the rest of the population of Bahrain to preserve law and order.”
On Thursday, the government's IAA confirmed in an emailed response to the AP that charges against the boy have not been dropped, but it did not clarify whether he had formally been found guilty of any crime.