Bahrain frees blogger on bail, to reinstate workers

Gulf kingdom is under pressure to improve its right record to secure a purchase of US arms
Bahrain frees blogger on bail, to reinstate workers
A flashback to the Bahrain uprisings earlier this year
By Reuters
Wed 21 Dec 2011 08:21 AM

Bahrain, under pressure to improve its right record to secure a purchase of US arms, said on Tuesday it freed on bail a female blogger arrested last week and would reinstate state employees suspended following pro-democracy protests.

The arrest of Zainab Al Khawaja, a blogger and human rights activist, and another activist, Masoma Al Sayyid, at a protest on Thursday had drawn protests from rights groups.

Khawaja, the daughter of a jailed opposition leader, and Sayyid were released on Tuesday pending a trial, a government statement said. "An investigation has been opened to review the arrest and legal procedures relating to the two women," it said.

The arrest of Khawaja had received wide coverage on media and the internet.

Washington has said a pending $53m arms sale to Bahrain will hinge partly on the monarchy's treatment of protesters outlined in a report by a government-appointed fact-finding commission of international lawyers.

Separately, authorities said on Tuesday they would reinstate the last group of state employees suspended during protests earlier this year.

"In accordance with the recommendations made by [the commission], an order reinstating the remaining [180] suspended employees to their jobs in the public sector has been issued," an official statement said.

Bahrain is important to Western interests in the Middle East because it hosts the US Fifth Fleet and faces Iran on the other side of the Gulf. Iran has denied Bahraini government accusations that it has incited the protests.

Inspired by "Arab Spring" uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt, thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets in February and March demanding an end to perceived discrimination.

The protests were suppressed with the help of military forces brought in from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. But small, low-level protests have persisted on an almost daily basis.

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