Commission: 137 Detainees Freed in Bahrain

Posted August 9th, 2011 at 9:00 pm (UTC-5)
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An independent probe of the unrest in Bahrain earlier this year says 137 detainees have been released to await trial in civilian courts, including two former Shi'ite members of parliament.

The head of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, Mahmoud Cherif Bassiouni, said Tuesday the attorney general ordered the release of the detainees. Bassiouni said the commission looks forward to continued cooperation by the government.

He also said his panel will continue looking into reports of mistreatment and detainee torture.

The two former lawmakers who were freed, Matar Matar and Jawad Fairuz, belong to Bahrain's largest Shi'ite opposition group, the Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society. They originally were to be tried in a military court.

Bassiouni's five-member panel is investigating Bahrain's Shi'ite-led pro-democracy protests earlier this year and a violent government response that left at least 32 people dead.

The panel expects to report its findings in October.

Bahrain's Sunni rulers imposed martial law and crushed weeks of pro-democracy protests led mostly by majority Shi'ites in March. A state of emergency was lifted June 1.

In addition to those killed during the crackdown, hundreds were arrested – mostly Shi'ites – and 2,000 were dismissed or suspended from their jobs.

Bahrain has said it will give the independent commission access to official files and allow it to meet witnesses in secret. The government in Manama has denied any systematic abuse by police, but has accused protesters of pursuing a sectarian agenda backed by the neighboring Shi'ite power, Iran.