Authorities in Bahrain have released Shia political activist Maryam Abdulhadi al-Khawaja but the charges against her still stand, the Gulf state’s interior ministry said in a statement.
Al-Khawaja, arrested after arriving at Manama airport last month and accused of assaulting a police officer, was released dependent on a guarantee of her place of residence and is banned from travelling, Thursday’s statement said.
“The lawyer of the accused requested her release after she was arrested on charges of assaulting a female officer and a policewoman at the Bahrain International Airport on August 30,” the statement said.
If convicted, al-Khawaja can spend several years in prison. She denies all accustions, and confirmed upon her release that she will not stop speaking out against human rights violations in the kingdom.
“Before leaving prison, I informed them that I will continue my human rights work,” al-Khawaja said on her Twitter account.
Al-Khawaja, a director of the Beirut-based Gulf Centre for Human Rights, also holds Danish citizenship and is a daughter of jailed Shia opposition icon Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. The family played a pivotal role in anti-government protests in 2011 and in sporadic anti-government protests that followed. The father is on a hungerstrike to protest his arrest since 2011 for his peaceful role in the upheaval.
In 2011, Bahrain was caught up in the so-called “Arab Spring” and thousands of protesters from the country’s Shia majority sought to topple the ruling Sunni Muslim Al-Khalifa dynasty.
Earlier on Thursday, more than 150 civil society organisations from more than 60 countries called on King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa to immediately and unconditionally release Al-Khawaja.
The signatories to the letter also urged the Bahraini ruler to release imprisoned human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience and cease all undue and unwarranted restrictions on civil society activism.
Since the 2011 protests, dozens of Bahraini Shia have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms after being convicted of involvement in violent protests.
Before al-Khawaja’s release, a Bahraini court has handed down a punishment of life inprisonment to 14 Shia protesters after they were convicted of attempted murder of policemen. The defendents were found guilty of participating in unauthorized protests, and detonating an improvised explosive device during a 2013 anti-government protest, AFP quoted an unnamed judicial source as saying. Several policemen were wounded, some seriously, at the incident.
“If the international community could secure my release, that gives me hope that we can do the same for the thousands of political prisoners,” al-Khawaja tweeted following her release.