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Bahraini detainees freed with threat of trials and rearrest on trumped up charges

Freed Bahraini detainees still to face trial
August 11, 2011 01:49 AM – By Isabel Coles – Reuters

DUBAI: Bahrain has released more than 100 detainees who had been facing military trials over their roles in anti-government protests earlier this year, but some of them will still be prosecuted in civilian courts, one of those set free said Wednesday. A panel of international lawyers which Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim monarchy invited to investigate the protests that mainly involved the Gulf state’s Shiite Muslim majority, said Tuesday that a total of 137 people had been released.

Among the detainees, who walked free Sunday, were Jawad Fairouz and Matar Ibrahim Matar, former members of parliament in the largest Shiite political bloc, Al-Wefaq.

Fairouz, who expects proceedings against him to be dropped, said some other detainees had been told they could not leave the country pending prosecutions in a civilian court.

“I heard they took some photos of them to show that they are in good health, so that later on when they re-appear in court [they] shouldn’t [make] any claims [that they had been] tortured,” said Fairouz, who had been charged with spreading false news and taking part in illegal gatherings.

“When they released us they didn’t take any signature or any commitment from us [that would require us to be] referred to the civil court,” he said.

Among those likely to face trial in a civilian court is lawyer Mohammad al-Tajer, who was detained in April after defending people arrested during the protests, Fairouz added.

More than 1,000 people were detained after Bahrain crushed demonstrations in March for greater political freedom and an end to sectarian discrimination that Shiites say they face in access to land, housing and state employment.

The kingdom attributed the unrest to manipulation by Iran of its Shiite co-religionists in Bahrain and denied persistent allegations of torture during and after the wave of detentions.

It has responded to international criticism of the crackdown by funding an international legal commission to investigate the events, but activists and rights groups say the panel is cut off from people who fear reprisal for testifying.

Bahraini opposition activists have also faulted the panel’s head, Cherif Bassiouni, for praising the authorities for cooperating with the investigation, and suggesting that abuses were individual acts, not official policy.