x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Bahrain releases more than 500 detainees

Authorities have released 515 detainees since a crackdown that began in mid-March on Shiite-led protests, either 'due to their health conditions or after considering their detention period to be enough'.

A Bahraini man walks past a mosque spray painted with pro-government graffiti in the western Shiite Muslim village of Dumistan, Bahrain. The graffiti reads: 'We demand execution of the detainees, hanging until death. Long live the king.' Hasan Jamali / AP Photo
A Bahraini man walks past a mosque spray painted with pro-government graffiti in the western Shiite Muslim village of Dumistan, Bahrain. The graffiti reads: 'We demand execution of the detainees, hanging until death. Long live the king.' Hasan Jamali / AP Photo

Bahraini authorities have released 515 detainees since a crackdown that began in mid-March on Shiite-led protests, Bahrain's official BNA news agency reported yesterday.

Six women remain among those still in custody, the report said.

Those released were set free either "due to their health conditions or after considering their detention period to be enough", said Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, who heads the kingdom's information affairs authority, according to the official BNA news agency.

Sheikh Fawaz, a member of the Sunni Al Khalifa dynasty, which rules the Shiite-majority kingdom, said 46 medics were still in custody, 29 of them facing criminal charges while 17 are accused of minor offences, BNA reported.

"The number of females detained for various crimes is six defendants," BNA quoted Sheikh Fawaz as saying, although he gave no overall figure for how many people remain in custody.

Sheikh Fawaz had said last month that 405 detainees had been referred to special courts set up under the state of national safety, which King Hamad declared ahead of the clampdown.

He said 62 were involved in criminal cases and 343 suspected of misdemeanour offences, while 312 others had been released.

Earlier this month, Bahraini authorities said 47 medical staff, 24 of them doctors, were referred to special courts to face charges, including embezzlement of public funds, possession of weapons, refusal to perform duties and putting people's lives and health at risk. In addition, they were accused of incitement to hatred of the regime and dissemination of false news.

Bahraini authorities came under strong criticism from international human rights organisations for their crackdown on demonstrators who had camped out for a month in Manama's Pearl Square. Security forces were particularly accused of using force against medics when they stormed the Salmaiya hospital in the city. Authorities accused the medics of turning the complex into a protest centre.

So far, two Shiites have been sentenced to death over the violence that accompanied the protests. Many more have been sentenced to jail terms.

Bahraini authorities have said 24 people, including four policemen, were killed during the month-long protests.