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Tue 24 May 2011 07:01 PM

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Bahrain says 515 freed since protest crackdown

More than 45 medical officers and six women among those still in custody

Bahrain says 515 freed since protest crackdown

Bahrain has released a total of 515 detainees since it
declared martial law in March under a crackdown on pro-reform protests, but
said 46 medical officers and six women remain among those in custody.

Sheikh Fawaz bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, head of the Gulf state’s
Information Affairs Authority, said the detainees were released “on
humanitarian grounds…or after completing their custody period,” state-run news
agency BNA reported.

Of the 46 medical staff still in custody, 29 are facing
criminal charges while the remaining 17 have been accused of misdemeanors,
Sheikh Fawaz said.

Six women remain in jail awaiting trial, he said.

Bahrain, home of the US Fifth Fleet, faced a wave of Shi’ite-led
protests in February and March that left at least 29 people dead, including
four policemen, and dozens more injured.

Bahrain's rulers imposed emergency law and called in troops
from neighbouring Gulf countries in March to quash the protests, but said in
April that martial law will be lifted in early June.

A special court established by Bahrain authorities last
month sentenced four activists to death for their part in the murder of two policemen.
An appeals court last week upheld the verdict for two of the men, and commuted
two of the sentences to life imprisonment.

The death sentences were only the third in more than three
decades issued against Bahraini citizens of Bahrain.

Bahrain has faced criticism from human rights agencies over
its heavy-handed crackdown on protestors. Authorities in the kingdom have
blamed foreign meddling for the uprisings.

Sheikh Fawaz said the government planned to release a series
of short films to “lay the extent of the conspiracy that targeted the kingdom.”