Bahrain opens new page with detained opposition protesters

Manama improves its human rights record

DUBAI - Bahrain authorities on Saturday dropped charges relating to freedom of expression in 34 cases linked to anti-regime protests in February and March, the official Bahrain News Agency said.
BNA cited Prosecutor General Ali al-Bouainain as saying the move affected 343 individual suspects, but that some of these accused of other charges "including acts of violence and sabotage" would still be prosecuted.
Matar Matar, an official with the main Shiite opposition grouping Al-Wefaq in the Sunni-ruled kingdom, played down the news.
"It's a media show, not linked to the application of the recommendations of the independent commission of inquiry" into the unrest which was violently suppressed by the Sunni kingdom's security forces backed by main Gulf allies.
BNA said the prosecutor general had also been given interior ministry files on "complaints of torture and bad treatment" by its agents against protesters, and said these would be heard from next week.
UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Wednesday called on the authorities in Bahrain to release protesters jailed in the crackdown and warned of a deepening mistrust between the government and its people.
In March, security forces boosted by some 1,000 Gulf troops crushed the month-long uprising in Manama's Pearl Square, epicentre of an anti-government movement that apparently took its lead from Tunisian and Egyptian protests.
A special commission appointed to probe the crackdown said 35 people were killed in the unrest, including five security personnel, and five detainees who were tortured to death while in custody. Hundreds were also injured.