Eleven weeks after it called in foreign troops to crush an anti-government uprising, Bahrain announced Tuesday that it is ending the country’s state of emergency and inviting opponents to join wide-ranging talks on political reform.
Activists using the social networking website Facebook called on Bahrainis to stage anti-regime protests in the main streets and squares on Wednesday as a state of emergency imposed during a March crackdown on protesters has ended.
“The protests are to be in main streets and squares … the movement must return to important places ahead of the imminent return, God willing, to Martyr’s Square,” said a post on “February 14 Revolution Youth Coalition” Facebook page, referring to the site of Pearl Square, which was the focal point of anti-government demonstrations from February until before being destroyed during the government crackdown in March.
Bahraini activists say their campaign will continue until the nation’s demands are met.
The new “protests will confirm that our revolution has not and will not end until our people take their right … of self-determination,” the post added.
An unnamed activist told AFP that most villages have announced that they will participate in the planned protests, adding that demonstrators from all over the country will march towards the Martyr’s Square on Friday.
Amnesty International has called on Manama officials to allow the planned protest rallies to go ahead and stop using violence against peaceful protesters.
“Bahraini authorities must not make the same mistakes as in February and March, when largely peaceful protests were violently suppressed by government security forces,” Malcolm Smart, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director, said in the statement.
“As the state of emergency is lifted, the authorities must allow people to peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association,” Smart added.
Bahraini protesters demand an end to the rule of Al Khalifa dynasty.
Since anti-government protests began in Bahrain in mid-February, regime forces, backed by a 1,000-strong Saudi military contingent, have abducted many people, including opposition activists, journalists, teachers, students, doctors and nurses, and destroyed dozens of mosques and other religious sites.
Scores of people have been killed and many more arrested in the Saudi-backed crackdown on peaceful protests in Bahrain
On Tuesday, the monarch told Bahraini journalists that in July the nation would begin a “comprehensive, serious dialogue, without conditions,” about national reconciliation.
“Despite the fact that what has occurred recently in Bahrain has hurt us deeply, we remain determined to honor our commitments before God and our people,” the state-run Bahrain News Agency quoted the king as saying.
Bahrain’s leading opposition groups have refused such negotiations, insisting that the government should first enact political reforms. At least 30 protesters were killed and hundreds were arrested in a weeks-long crackdown.
But in a separate statement, the country’s Justice Ministry warned that the monarchy would not tolerate a return of the mass protests that paralyzed the tiny island country, which serves as home base for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet
Despite of giving the Message of Reconciliation, The Bahraini regime has stepped up the apprehension of civil society leaders, rights activists and other opposition figures amid continuing anti-government protests in the Persian Gulf sheikdom.
On Tuesday, military prosecutors in Bahrain summoned four members of the country’s main opposition party, al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, and a prominent rights activist for questioning, a Press TV report said.
Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) was, however, freed hours after his appearance before prosecutors.
Rajab was previously arrested by the Al Khalifa forces on March 20, following a raid on his house.
During his detention, Rajab says he was beaten and threatened with rape.
The recent arrests come only a day before the lifting of a martial law in Bahrain, which has been in effect since March 17.
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