Bahrain’s King Announces Largest Amnesty in Years

Bahrain’s monarch has granted clemency to 1,584 individuals facing criminal and “riot” charges, according to state media reports on Monday, marking the largest mass release in the Gulf nation in years.

The royal decree announced through the official Bahrain News Agency (BNA), did not explicitly mention whether political detainees were among those set to be freed, although a human rights organization suggested it was probable.

The BNA statement emphasized that “this royal decree underscores His Majesty’s commitment to preserving the unity and stability of Bahraini society while safeguarding its social cohesion.”

The pardons encompass individuals convicted in cases related to “riots and criminal offenses” and were proclaimed as Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa commemorates 25 years since his accession to the throne, as per BNA.

Sayed Alwadaei, advocacy director for the UK-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), indicated that political detainees were likely included in the amnesty, stating that the term “riot” often refers to those advocating for political reforms.

BIRD noted that this recent royal decree represents the “largest number of pardoned detainees since the pro-democracy uprising in 2011,” which saw a government crackdown following anti-government protests.

The decree’s timing coincides with the upcoming Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan and frequently prompts prison pardons from leaders across the Gulf region.

Since the 2011 wave of protests, during which authorities, supported by a Saudi military contingent, quelled Shiite-led demonstrations calling for a constitutional monarchy and an elected premier, Bahrain has detained numerous dissidents.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Bahrain’s interior ministry announced in 2020 the release of 1,486 prisoners, including 901 who were granted royal pardons on “humanitarian grounds.”

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