Bahrain's Emir, Sheikh Hamad al-Khalifa announced Monday an amnesty for political prisoners held on security charges and opposition figures in exile, reported the Gulf Daily.
The emir said in a speech marking the country's Army Day that the amnesty covered "prisoners and detainees held on security issues," including those already freed, as well as opposition members living abroad, the Daily added.
The amnesty was one of the main opposition demands ahead of the February 14-15 referendum on a national charter to restore parliament, which was dissolved two years after it opened in 1973 for "obstructing" the government, said AFP.
"The amnesty will facilitate the return of exiled Bahrainis who want to return to their homeland within the framework of law and order," Sheikh Hamad said.
Around 100 people are still in detention without trial for their role in Shiite-led unrest which rocked the archipelago between 1994 and 1999, diplomats told the agency.
The BBC.online said that the amnesty was the first concrete step to bring the opposition into next week's referendum to restore democracy.
Next week men and women over the age of 20 are being urged to vote in a referendum on far-reaching reforms set out in a document called the National Charter.
If approved, the measures will turn this small island state into a constitutional monarchy with a two-chamber parliament, one elected and the other appointed, the BBC said.
Moreover, democracy campaigners say the referendum cannot be free and fair unless the country's state security courts are abolished and unless the authorities permit a free and open debate over the proposed changes, according to the news service -- Albawaba.com
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