Bahrain has freed 23 people accused of trying to topple the island's monarchy, along with other prisoners and people detained in last week's protests, an opposition lawmaker said on Wednesday.
The prisoner release was a further concession to the mainly Shi'ite protesters who took to the streets last week to demand a constitutional monarchy and an elected government, emboldened by a surge of popular unrest across the Arab world.
It also preceded the expected return to Bahrain of Hassan Mushaimaa, leader of the Haq party, who had been tried in absentia for his part in the alleged coup plot.
Ibrahim Mattar of the main Shi'ite Wefaq party said more than 100 prisoners had been freed overnight, but dozens remained in jail. Those released included 21 common criminals, he said.
"Allowing the people to protest and releasing those people are positive moves," Mattar said. Opposition groups were waiting for the royal family to accept the principle of a constitutional monarchy before they would enter into a dialogue, he added.
Concessions so far have been to allow peaceful protests and to offer dialogue on reform.
"The main point we are waiting for is the initiative for political reform. Until now they didn't promise anything," Mattar said. "If they don't say it, we are wasting our time."
The release of political prisoners has been a demand of protesters seeking an elected government in Bahrain, where seven people were killed and hundreds wounded in protests last week.
Among the first to be freed late on Tuesday night was a group of youths apparently picked up during the demonstrations.
Two dozen relatives waited at the jail for the teenagers, who emerged one by one with solemn, unshaven faces. Some waved victory signs. One waiting mother tossed a sprig of basil in the air to welcome her freed son, a Reuters photographer said.
The 23 men in prison for the coup plot, who include some Shi'ite clerics, were put on trial in October after a broad security crackdown on some Shi'ite opposition groups in August.
Mushaimaa, the opposition leader, was due to have returned from exile in London on Tuesday, but was barred from a Bahrain-bound flight from Beirut where he had stopped over.
Last Mod: 23 Şubat 2011, 15:57