|At least 30 people have been killed since anti-government protests by Bahrain’s Shia majority began in February [EPA]|
State media in Bahrain says King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa has ordered an end to the emergency rule imposed in mid-March to quell a wave of anti-government protests in the Gulf Arab country.
Bahrain state TV said the state of emergency will end on June 1 in line with a royal decree issued on Sunday.
The announcement came as 14 out of 21 opposition leaders and political activists were charged with attempting to overthrow the Sunni monarchy in a special security court set up by the emergency rule. The remaining seven are being tried in absentia.
Jamal Fakhro, deputy president of Bahrain’s Shura Council, the upper house of the National Assembly, which is directly appointed by the king, welcomed the announcement on lifting emergency rule.
“This is good news for Bahrain,” he told Al Jazeera from Manama. “This shows we are in the process of managing our affairs.”
Under the state of emergency, Bahraini security forces cracked down on predominantly Shia villages and arrested hundreds of people, many of whom have been referred to special courts.
At least 30 people have been killed since Bahrain’s Shia majority, demanding greater freedoms and rights, took their grievances to the streets in February.
The three-month state of emergency, which was due to be lifted on June 15, was imposed after Bahrain called in troops from neighbouring Gulf Arab states to help quash anti-government protests.
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It was declared on March 15 and gave the commander of the Bahraini armed forces a mandate “to take the measures and procedures necessary to preserve the safety of the nation and its people”.
It also stipulated that “other forces” could also be used if necessary.
Armoured troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates rolled into the kingdom across the causeway from Saudi Arabia’s eastern province to relieve pressure on the Bahraini security forces.
Those forces on March 16 drove protesters out of Manama’s Pearl Square, the focal point of the Shia-led opposition movement.
Fakhro, the Shura Council member, rejected the charge that the Bahraini government had carried out a violent crackdown, but said he wanted to see a peaceful resolution of the crisis.
“Hopefully the protests will not start up again once the emergency law is lifted,” he told Al Jazeera.
“I think things will be much calmer and, hopefully, a proper dialogue will start again to bring things into order.”