Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifah ordered the release of some political prisoners on Tuesday, conceding to another opposition demand as the embattled monarchy tries to engage protesters in talks aimed at ending an uprising that has entered its second week.
It’s unclear how many prisoners will be freed, said government spokeswoman Maysoon Sabkar.
But they include some of the 25 Shiite activists on trial for allegedly plotting against the Sunni rulers of the strategic island kingdom, a leading member of Bahrain’s Shiite opposition, Abdul Jalili Khalil, told The Associated Press.
He called the prisoner release as “a good step” and a “positive gesture.”
Two of those in the case are being tried in absentia, including opposition leader Hassan Meshaima, who has been in self-exile in London since last year and was expected to return later on Tuesday.
Mr. Mesheima’s presence could bolster opposition forces seeking a harder line against the monarchy, including some who have called for the complete ouster of the King and the royal dynasty that has ruled for more than 200 years.
Mr. Meshaima’s group, known as Haq, is considered more radical than the main Shiite political bloc that has so far taken a central role in the revolt, which began last week with marches but quickly met with violent resistance from security forces.
The Shiite group includes 18 members of the 40—member parliament, who resigned on Thursday to protest the killing of demonstrators by security forces.
At least eight people have been slain and hundreds injured in street clashes, which included the army opening fire on protesters in the capital Manama. The attack brought stinging denunciations from Bahrain’s Western allies, including the United States. The U.S. maintains very close ties with Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.
Bahrain authorities withdrew the military on Saturday and allowed protesters to reclaim the landmark Pearl Square, which has been the centre of the Shiite-led uprising.
Keywords: Bahrain unrest