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Bahrain frees Shiites, pardons opposition leader Sheikh Hassan Mashaima

MANAMA - Bahraini authorities have released 23 Shiite activists held on terrorism counts and pardoned two others

Will their release calm the protests?

23 Shiite activists held on terrorism counts freed, two others abroad pardoned in bid to calm anti-regime protests.

 

 

 abroad including opposition leader Hassan Mashaima, an MP said Wednesday.

"The 23 have been released," MP Jassem Hussein, a member of the opposition Islamic National Accord Association which controls the largest bloc in the 40-strong parliament, said.

The 25 men in October were charged with forming an illegal organisation, engaging in and financing terrorism and spreading false and misleading information.

The two tried in absentia were Freedom Islamic Movement secretary general Said al-Shihabi and Mashaima, the leader of the opposition Haq movement who was expected to return to Manama on Tuesday but did not.

Shihabi lives in London as does Mashaima, who was in Britain on a trip for medical treatment when the charges were brought against the group.

Shiite cleric Mohammed al-Moqdad and Abduljalil al-Singace, another Haq leader who is partially paralysed, were among those held over the charges.

Moqdad has complained of brutal treatment in prison.

Their release follows a pardon announced by King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa in response to demands by protesters who are pushing for the replacement of the Khalifa dynasty with a "real" constitutional monarchy.

Bahraini authorities have called for national dialogue to find a way out of the deadlock.

Mashaima said before King Hamad's pardon that he would return to Manama but had "no guarantees" he would not be arrested on arrival.

"I have decided to return to my country," said Mashaima, a Shiite who is currently in London.

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