x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

Bahrain ‘frees’ opposition politician

Khalil Al Marzouq, a former parliamentarian, was jailed last month by police investigating his alleged promotion of terrorism.

MANAMA // A Bahraini opposition politician was temporarily freed yesterday in a surprise conciliatory ruling by the court trying him on charges that include inciting terrorism.

Khalil Al Marzouq, a former parliament member, was detained last month by police investigating his alleged promotion of terrorism, angering his Shiite Islamist Al Wefaq party, Bahrain’s largest opposition group.

Unrest has gripped Bahrain since a 2011 uprising led by its Shiite majority demanding reforms and more share in government in the kingdom ruled by the Sunni Al Khalifa dynasty.

The arrest of Mr Al Marzouq prompted the Wefaq party to suspend its participation in talks with the government.

Mr Al Marzouq, appearing in court for the first time amid tight security, denied all charges. The judge said he could go free until his next hearing on November 18.

His wife, speaking after the ruling, said Mr Al Marzouq was to be released yesterday.

“There are usually no releases in similar cases when it is related to terrorism charges, but I think such a ruling was intended to placate public opinion,” said Mohammed Al Maskati, head of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights.

Talks between the government and its opponents began in February, but have not yet been able to find a way through the impasse.

Wefaq, which says it advocates non-violent methods, demands a constitutional monarchy with a government chosen from within a democratically elected parliament.

Bahrain’s chief prosecutor, Nayef Yousfi, said last month that police investigations showed Mr Al Marzouq had spoken at many forums promoting what the authorities described as terrorism.

At one event, Mr Al Marzouq had raised the flag of the February 14 Coalition, a network that uses social media to organise anti-government protests, Mr Yousfi said.

He also described the group as a terrorist organisation.

* Reuters