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Posts Tagged ‘Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa’

Bahrain king orders release of political prisoners

Posted by Admin on February 23, 2011

Some thousands of Bahraini mourners participate ...
Some thousands of Bahraini mourners participate in a funeral march Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011, in Malkiya
By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI and BARBARA SURK, Associated Press Hadeel Al-shalchi And Barbara Surk, Associated Press 1 hr 15 mins ago

MANAMA, Bahrain – Tens of thousands of red-and-white draped, flag-waving protesters flooded this tiny kingdom’s capital Tuesday, a massive show of force against the embattled monarchy as the king made another concession to the marchers — a promise to release an unspecified number of political prisoners.

Upbeat, determined demonstrators took over Manama for the day, circling the Bahrain Mall and Manama’s financial district, symbols of the country’s recent prosperity, in a march to the heart of the protest at Pearl Square.

“Egypt, Tunisia, are we any different?” marchers chanted, calling for the Sunni rulers they accuse of discriminating against the island’s Shiite majority to fall as the presidents of two other Arab countries have in recent weeks.

Helicopters hovered overhead but security forces offered no resistance after opening fire on protesters last week, and the size of the event rivaled any of the major demonstrations so far in the eight-day uprising.

The decree issued earlier Tuesday by Bahrain’s king Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa covers several Shiite activists accused of plotting against the state. It underlined how much the absolute rulers of Bahrain want to kick start reform talks with opposition leaders, and the huge march in a nation of 525,000 citizens showed how much they need to.

The exact number of prisoners to be freed remains unclear, government spokeswoman Maysoon Sabkar said. But the inmates will include some of the 25 Shiite activists on trial for allegedly plotting against the monarchy, a leading member of Bahrain’s Shiite opposition, Abdul Jalili Khalil, told The Associated Press.

He called the prisoner release “a good step” and a “positive gesture.”

Two of those in the case are being tried in absentia, including prominent opposition leader Hassan Meshaima, who has been in self-exile in London since last year. Meshaima’s return to Bahrain was imminent, his supporters said.

The activist’s presence could bolster opposition forces seeking a harder line against the Bahrain dynasty, including some who have called for the complete ouster of the king and the family that has ruled for more than 200 years.

Meshaima’s group, known as Haq, is considered more radical than the main Shiite political bloc that has taken a central role in the revolt and is seeking the establishment of a constitutional monarchy.

A small group of Bahraini army officers joined the ranks of protesters to demand reforms and the resignation of the current government. They condemned the soldiers who shot at protesters on Friday.

“What we did to the people was not heroic,” said Yeussif Najri, an army officer. “We ask the people to forgive us, we ask the people for forgiveness.”

The government said Tuesday that the overall death toll was seven from last week’s clashes. Previous reports from opposition groups and hospital officials in the past week set the death toll at eight, but the government tally now appears accurate.

The government also said 25 people were hospitalized, but it’s unclear what degree of injury authorities used to arrive at that figure. Opposition groups place the figure at more than 200. Associated Press journalists at the main state hospital witnessed many dozens of people being treated.

The attacks on protesters have brought stinging denunciations from Bahrain’s Western allies, including the United States. The U.S. maintains very close ties with Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

Bahrain authorities withdrew the military Saturday and allowed protesters to reclaim Pearl Square, the gathering point for the uprising and now a tent city of protesters.

Bahrain’s Shiite majority has complained of discrimination and political persecution in the kingdom. They have staged protests in the past, but the current unrest is the most serious against the Sunni rulers.

On Monday, Bahrain’s crown prince called off Formula One’s season-opening race scheduled for March 13, handing another victory to protesters. Shiite leaders said it would have been disrespectful the hold the race to which Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa owns the rights

Sabkar told reporters the “immediate priority is to keep the peace and maintain calm.” She said the government, led by the same prime minister — the king’s uncle — for 40 years, was “deeply saddened by the tragic events of the past few days and its condolences go out to those families who have lost loved ones.”

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Bahrain protesters gather in capital for third day

Posted by Admin on February 16, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/us_bahrain;_ylt=A0wNdPF9dFtNT28BHxas0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNhbGphY2EzBGFzc2V0A25tLzIwMTEwMjE2L3VzX2JhaHJhaW4EY2NvZGUDbW9zdHBvcHVsYXIEY3BvcwMxBHBvcwMyBHB0A2hvbWVfY29rZQRzZWMDeW5fdG9wX3N0b3J5BHNsawNiYWhyYWlucHJvdGU-

Protesters serve coffee and tea at the Pearl ...
Reuters – Protesters serve coffee and tea at the Pearl Roundabout, a famous landmark of Bahrain
By Cynthia Johnston Cynthia Johnston 30 mins ago

MANAMA (Reuters) – Thousands of Shi’ite demonstrators, inspired by popular revolts that toppled rulers in Tunisia and Egypt, gathered in Bahrain’s capital on Wednesday to mourn for a second protestor killed in clashes this week.

Several hundred gathered at a funeral procession for a man shot dead when police and mourners clashed at an earlier funeral procession on Tuesday.

“We are requesting our rights in a peaceful way,” said Bakr Akil, a 20 year-old university student, wearing a sheet stained with red ink that he said was a symbol of his willingness to sacrifice his life for freedom.

“I am optimistic that our big presence will achieve our demands,” Akil said.

Women dressed in black abayas followed the procession with their own chants calling for peace and Bahraini unity.

Elsewhere in central Manama, witnesses say about 2,000 protestors had spent the night in tents at Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout, similar to the number marching on the streets a day earlier.

It remains to be seen whether the number would rise or fall during Wednesday. Some will have to return to work, after a public holiday on Tuesday to mark the Prophet Mohammed‘s birthday.

Police kept their distance, mostly confining themselves to a nearby dirt lot with dozens of SUV police vehicles. The ministry of Interior announced that all roads were open.

The demonstrators from Bahrain’s Shi’ite majority say the ruling Sunni minority shuts them out of housing, healthcare and government jobs.

“The United States is very concerned by recent violence surrounding protests in Bahrain,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement. “We also call on all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from violence.”

The main Shi’ite opposition bloc Wefaq, which boycotted parliament to protest the clampdown by Sunni security forces, said it would hold talks with the government on Wednesday.

Protesters said their main demand was the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, who has governed the Gulf Arab state since its independence in 1971.

An uncle of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, he is thought to own much land and is seen as a symbol of the wealth of the ruling family.

DEMOGRAPHIC BALANCE

Activists say they also want the release of political prisoners, which the government has promised, and the creation of a new constitution.

Poverty, high unemployment and alleged attempts by the state to grant citizenship to Sunni foreigners to change the demographic balance have intensified discontent among Bahrain’s Shi’ites.

Around half of the tiny island kingdom’s 1.3 million people are Bahraini, the rest being foreign workers.

Analysts say large-scale unrest in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and a regional offshore banking center, could embolden marginalized Shi’ites in nearby Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter.

King Hamad expressed his condolences for “the deaths of two of our dear sons” in a televised speech and said a committee would investigate the killings.

Bahrain, in a move appeared aimed at preventing Shi’ite discontent from boiling over, had offered cash payouts of around 1,000 dinars ($2,650) per family in the run-up to this week’s protests.

(Reporting by Frederik Richter; writing by Reed Stevenson; editing by Matthew Jones)

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