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Anti-Gov’t Protests Erupt in Bahrain, Calling for Release of Political Prisoners

Manama (Xinhua) — Anti-government protesters turned up in hundreds here on Wednesday, calling for the release of remaining political prisoners .

They marched from the Pearl roundabout to the interior ministry, which led to crippling traffic jams. Heavy presence of riot police and military was visible as they barbed wire all entrances of the ministry.

“We demand the government to resign and release all prisoners detained in the past few years for expressing their political views,” Mohammed Hassan, one of the protestors, told Xinhua.

This is the first time the protestors marched in close vicinity to the interior ministry as the rally law prohibits demonstration near ministry buildings, hospitals, airport, schools and other sensitive locations.

Last month, the Bahraini government released 308 prisoners following the orders by the leadership.

Among those released, there are 25 terrorist suspects, who were charged to be a part of a cell aimed to jeopardize state security. The information affairs authority said the decision to release the men was by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.

The government has been under intense pressure after Shiite protestors camped at the Pearl square on Feb. 15 amid increasing criticism from international human rights groups for detaining political prisoners. Seven political parties will be sitting on the negotiation table with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa to end the ongoing stalemate.

Their demands include the government to be dissolved, establishment of a constitutional monarchy, release of remaining political prisoners, independent commission of inquiry in the killing of seven men during clashes with police since Feb. 14, and neutral state media in order to represent all sections of the society.

Bahrain, a close U.S. ally, is home to its Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

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