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Chan'ad Bahraini

(Scomberomorous maculatus Bahrainius)

Note: This page has moved to a new address. Please click on the following URL to get there: http://chanad.weblogs.us/index.php?s=Pro-reform activists freed. Sorry for the trouble.

Pro-reform activists freed

Wednesday, May 19, 2004
This just in from Reuters. I'm glad that the activists were released, but we'll have to wait for tomorrow's newspapers to find out what was settled at the meeting.
Bahrain king orders 11 pro-reform activists freed
19 May 2004 18:23:45 GMT

MANAMA, May 19 (Reuters) - Bahrain released on Wednesday 11 opposition activists who were arrested earlier this month after petitioning the government for more democratic reforms, officials and activists said.

A day earlier, New-York based Human Rights Watch had urged the Gulf Arab state to free the activists, calling their detention a "blatant suppression of freedom of speech".

The official Bahrain News Agency said the release followed a meeting between King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and nine political and social groups.

"The king has ordered the release of the 11 detainees and all of them returned to their homes," Abdul-Rahman al-Naimi, head of the opposition National Democratic Action Society, told Reuters.

Opposition groups had circulated a petition demanding constitutional amendments to give greater powers to the country's elected parliament, which is on an equal footing with a chamber appointed by the king.

"We discussed with the king ways of improving dialogue with the government. But we still have not decided to stop the petition," Naimi said.

Police originally arrested 19 activists but later released eight on bail.

The men, mostly under 25, were charged with calling for change to the political system, provoking hatred and trying to destabilise public security.

The government says any changes to the constitution is the right of the king, who is given broad powers by the law.

Bahrain, the Gulf's banking hub and home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, has introduced some reforms, but the opposition, led by the country's majority Shi'ite Muslims, want more rights in the Sunni-ruled island state.

Many Bahrainis fear rising tension between the government and the opposition could cost them political freedoms they have been granted since the new king came to power in 1999.

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