Bahrain to drop charges against 343 activists

December 25, 2011 - 12:06:55 am

DUBAI: Bahrain said yesterday it would drop charges against 343 people whose offences were linked to free speech, but the opposition said that was just a portion of those detained on such accusations during pro-democracy protests this year.

The country, under pressure to improve its rights record to secure a US arms deal, has said it would follow the recommendations of a state-appointed commission which found evidence of widespread abuse in the crackdown against the protests by majority Shia Muslims.

The measure, part of a review of action by military courts set up after Bahrain announced martial law in March, applies to 43 cases and 343 defendants, public prosecutor Ali Al Buainain told the state news agency BNA.

“However, other cases will remain pending because they involve crimes of violence and sabotage against people and property,” Buainain said. An official at the opposition group, Wefaq, said about 85 percent of the cases it studied were linked to freedom of speech and assembly. “Of the 1,200 cases we have reported about, 1,000 include charges such as illegal assembly, spreading false news and spreading hatered of the regime,” said Matar Matar, a former parliament member for Wefaq. REUTERS