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BAHRAIN: Freed political prisoners join protests

February 23, 2011 |  7:18 am

Prisoner march
Some political prisoners freed just hours earlier joined anti-government protesters marching through the capital of Manama, Bahrain, on Wednesday, but local rights groups say hundreds more remain in prison. Meanwhile, the protest movement shows no signs of losing steam.

The move by King Hamed bin Isa Khalifa to free about 100 prisoners is intended to appease protesters who took to the streets last week demanding reform but have begun calling for an end to the monarchy following a crackdown by authorities that left at least seven people dead and dozens wounded.

"Allowing the people to protest and releasing those people are positive moves," Ibrahim Mattar of the main Shiite Wefaq party told Reuters.

But the king's gesture did not satisfy opposition and human-rights groups, which have been demanding a promise to transition to a constitutional monarchy and the release of all prisoners of conscience.

"The main point we are waiting for is the initiative for political reform. Until now, they didn't promise anything," Mattar said. "If they don't say it, we are wasting our time."

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights was also critical of the government, tweeting on Wednesday: "About 100 political prisoners had been freed but another 400 or so are still held."

Maryam Khawaja, who works for the center, tweeted "ppl r chanting for the fall of the entire regime in the march of free prisoners."

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photo: Freed political prisoners join protesters in the streets of Manama, Bahrain. Credit: Maryam  Khawaja / Bahrain Center for Human Rights

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