x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Mushaima's return to Bahrain delayed, misses protests

A judicial official says the Haq leader was released and was free to head back to Bahrain.

BEIRUT // As tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Manama yesterday calling for change, the leading opposition figure Hassan Mushaima was remained outside the country after he was detained in Beirut.

A judicial official told Agence France-Presse that Mr Mushaima had been released and was free to head back to Bahrain, but did not give details. A source with Haq, Mr Mushaima's hardline Shia movement, told The National he was freed on Thursday.

Mr Mushaima was to return to Bahrain from London. However, on Tuesday he stopped in Beirut where he was detained as a result of an Interpol warrant relating to charges against him in Bahrain.

"Inshallah he will be coming home soon," Jameel al Saeed, a Haq member, said in a telephone interview from Bahrain. "He was held because Interpol did not send a message to remove the warrant from the court case."

As the crisis in Bahrain entered its second week, Bahraini authorities released some 308 political prisoners in order to pave the way for talks with the opposition.

Those released include 23 opposition activists who had been accused of trying to overthrow the government.

Mr Mushaima was charged in absentia along with the group, but the government has since confirmed they are no longer wanted.

Yesterday's protests in Bahrain were some of the biggest yet. Young and old, men and women, marched in processions on either side of a main motorway - one of the two routes - waving the red-and-white national flag or draping it across their shoulders.

Some protesters carried megaphones, blaring slogans and speeches as the protest snaked towards Pearl Roundabout, which some have renamed "Martyrs' Roundabout" in honour of the seven victims killed by security forces since the protests began.

A group of leading opposition parties are waiting to start a dialogue to resolve the current impasse led by Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the crown prince. The parties are calling for reforms based on a constitutional monarchy.