Key Bahraini opposition figure returns home

Saturday, February 26, 2011

MANAMA - A key exiled Bahraini opposition leader Saturday returned to the country amid continued anti-government demonstrations.

“They (the government) have made promises to us before, but they did not do anything for Bahrain, that is why we need to see practical things not just talk,” Hassan Mushaima told reporters at the airport upon his arrival.

Mushaima had been charged in August along with 24 other opposition and human rights activists for national security-related offences, according to activist group Human Rights Watch (HRW).

He was in London at the time receiving medical treatment, HRW said, and was tried, with one other, in absentia.

The government released the 23 activists remaining in custody this week before the trial concluded, HRW said. Their legal status was “unclear” but high level officials had told Bahraini media Mushaimi would not be arrested on his return.

On Saturday the opposition leader stopped short of calling for the overthrow of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, but said that demands for reforms rested in the hands of protesters.

Mushaima, who is head of the Haq, or Justice, movement, had most recently been detained in early 2009, but was released months later.

His arrival in Bahrain came as thousands marched to the country’s cabinet building from the central Lulu Square, which has been the focal point of the recent protests in the capital Manama.

Reports emerged that several ministers in the cabinet were sacked Friday after thousands of protesters demanded their resignation after allegations that they had fuelled unrest and ordered violence against demonstrators.

Neither the Bahrain news agency (BNA) nor state-run television confirmed the reports.

Among those said to have been removed from their posts were the minister of housing, the health minister, the head of cabinet affairs, and the minister of electricity. The health minister had been accused of ordering ambulances not to assist protesters shot by security forces.

Shia Muslims make up over 70 percent of Bahrain’s population but complain of discrimination by the ruling Sunni elite.

In a move to appease protesters, the government this week released 308 political prisoners, many of whom claimed they had been tortured. The government said that torture claims would be investigated.

Filed under: Politics

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