Nations rallying around Bahrain
Manama, February 25, 2011
Countries have rallied behind Bahrain's efforts to form a national dialogue, with France, Jordan, Russia and Turkey all offering their support.
The Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) has also offered its backing to the initiative being spearheaded by His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander.
A meeting has already taken place between His Majesty King Hamad, His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, HRH the Crown Prince and other top officials to get the ball rolling, a government spokeswoman revealed on Thursday.
She also reiterated that as part of these steps, no further action would be taken against 308 prisoners released from custody.
"They (the Interior Ministry) can also confirm that none of the individuals released will face criminal proceedings relating to the offence for which they were being held," the spokeswoman said, adding the released prisoners included convicted criminals and suspects standing trial.
Meanwhile, she denied a host of false reports over the past two weeks, including claims that 60 dead protesters were secretly packed into refrigerated trucks after police evicted demonstrators from Pearl Roundabout on the morning of February 17, as well as claims by New York Times staff that helicopters fired on them and protesters last Friday.
"The government confirmed that helicopters were used by authorities solely for observational purposes," she said.
The spokeswoman also said there were no shots fired by snipers from raised positions, as had been claimed.
"Reports of a six-year-old girl shot in the ribs appear to have emanated from images circulated online and these have been identified as a girl from the Philippines who was mauled by a tiger," the spokeswoman added.
"I can reconfirm that no children were admitted to hospital, although five were known to suffer from tear gas inhalation, but were immediately treated and discharged."
She also denied that troops from overseas had been involved in operations against anti-government demonstrators over the past two weeks.
However, she confirmed 18 people injured in clashes with police last week were still in hospital yesterday - with two of them in a critical condition.
"In terms of injuries sustained by police officers during the events last week, 73 sustained injuries, with seven of these being serious," she said.
"Eighteen people remain in hospital with injuries relating to the events, with two of them in critical condition."
Quoting a Health Ministry statement, the spokeswoman confirmed an exclusive report by the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication, on Wednesday that an influx of unneeded volunteers at Salmaniya Medical Complex actually hindered medical staff.
It followed a police operation to evict protesters from Pearl Roundabout on February 17, which left four dead and more than 200 injured.
"An unprecedented number of people in the hospital, both unsolicited, volunteer staff and gathered crowds, contributed to the inability of the SMC and the ambulance disaster response plan, and hindered the emergency services' ability to respond effectively," the spokeswoman said.
She added the top-level meeting to discuss the national dialogue, which took place on Tuesday, was also attended by Deputy Premiers, Shura Council members, MPs and Supreme Judicial Council members.
"The national dialogue provides a platform for all parties to contribute and take part in the reform march on the basis of national consensus," His Majesty earlier said.
He also urged all parties to engage in the national dialogue, extended his condolences to the victims' families and wished those injured a speedy recovery.
Meanwhile, HRH the Crown Prince stressed the need for national unity regardless of religion or sect.
"Bahrain is a land of tolerance, co-existence and rejection of sectarianism," he said. "All Bahrainis belong to the same nation and share bonds of national unity," he added.-TradeArabia News Service