Last updated: 23 May, 2011

Bahrain says 515 released since protests crushed

Bahraini authorities have released 515 detainees since a mid-March crackdown on Shiite-led protests, an official said, adding that six women are among those who remain in custody.

Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al-Khalifa, who heads the kingdom’s Information Affairs Authority, said those released were set free either “due to their health conditions or after considering their detention period to be enough,” the official BNA news agency reported late on Sunday.

Sheikh Fawaz, a member of the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty which rules the Shiite-majority kingdom, said 46 medics were still in custody, 29 of them facing criminal charges while 17 are accused of minor offences, BNA reported.

“The number of females detained for various crimes is six defendants,” BNA quoted him as saying, although he gave no overall figure for how many people remain in custody.

Sheikh Fawaz had said last month that 405 detainees had been referred to special courts set up under the state of national safety, a lower degree of emergency law, which King Hamad declared ahead of the clampdown.

He said 62 were involved in criminal cases and 343 suspected of misdemeanour offences, while 312 others had been released.

Earlier this month, Bahraini authorities said 47 medical staff, 24 of them doctors, were referred to special courts to face a multitude of charges, including embezzlement of public funds, possession of weapons, refusal to perform duties and putting people’s lives and health at risk.

In addition, they were accused of incitement to hatred of the regime and dissemination of false news.

Bahraini authorities came under strong criticism from international human rights organisations for their heavy-handed crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators who had camped out for a month in Manama’s Pearl Square.

Security forces were particularly accused of using force against medics when they stormed the Salmaiya hospital in the city centre.

Authorities accused the medics of turning the complex into a protest centre.

So far, two Shiites have been sentenced to death over the unrest which accompanied the protests. Many more have been sentenced to jail terms.

Bahraini authorities have said 24 people, including four policemen, were killed during the month-long protests.