Bahrain releases political activist Salah al-Khawaja

Published March 20th, 2016 - 07:55 GMT
A Bahraini protester walks towards local riot police. (AFP/Mohammed Al Shaikh)
A Bahraini protester walks towards local riot police. (AFP/Mohammed Al Shaikh)

The Bahraini regime released Salah al-Khawaja, a prominent rights activist, after five years in jail Saturday in an apparent bid to divert mounting criticism of its ongoing crackdown on activists and protesters.

Salah comes from a family which is known for its activism in a campaign for human rights and political freedom in Bahrain.

Salah's relatives said they had received a call telling them to pick Salah up in the morning. The Khawaja family has posted a photo on social media of Salah in a car with family members.

Bahraini authorities have not yet made any comment on the issue.

Salah is brother to Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a well-known political activist currently serving a life sentence for allegedly plotting to overthrow the Manama regime.

The release comes after Michel Forst, the UN special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, called on the Bahraini regime to release female rights activist Zainab al-Khawaja and her one-year-old son, who were recently detained.

Family members said Zainab and her son, Abdulhadi, were arrested in the mother's apartment in the capital, of Manama, on March 14.

On February 6, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), where Abdulhadi is the co-founder, announced in a statement that Bahraini authorities are deliberately singling out female rights defenders to take revenge and also force them into stopping their campaign. It further called for the immediate release of all female activists currently being held in Bahraini jails.

Separately, on March 18, medical professionals and organizations from around the world submitted a petition to the king of Bahrain, calling for the release of a prominent doctor who has been held behind bars for five years now.

The letter posted online by Amnesty International on Thursday saw 153 doctors and nurses, along with Amnesty itself and two medical organizations, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Ali Esa Mansoor al-Ekri from prison.

Ekri was imprisoned on March 17, 2011, when he was reportedly operating a child in Salmaniya Medical Complex in Manama. His arrest was apparently due to his treatment of people who had been injured during peaceful anti-regime protests in the capital.

Since mid-February 2011, thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations on an almost daily basis in the kingdom, calling for the Al Khalifa family to relinquish power.

The uprising, however, has been met with a heavy-handed crackdown. Scores have been killed and hundreds have been jailed.

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