Bahrain opposition leader cleared of terror charges
Manama, June 25, 2014
A senior member of Bahrain's Shi'ite opposition said he was cleared of terrorism charges on Wednesday, a move that could help stalled talks with the government to try and end months of sporadic unrest.
Khalil al-Marzouq from the al-Wefaq party, was one of a number of opposition figures and activists detained since majority Shi'ite Muslims led mass protests in 2011 demanding a greater role in running the Sunni-ruled island kingdom.
"My innocence was inevitable from day one," he told reporters outside the court after the verdict.
"The political process has to develop and become effective for us to lead Bahrain to the shores of safety through negotiations and a comprehensive process that serves the interests of all the citizens of Bahrain," he said.
Wefaq, which says it advocates non-violent activism, boycotted reconciliation talks with the government after Marzouq's arrest in September.
A meeting between Bahrain's crown prince and opposition leaders in January pulled the discussions back from the brink of collapse but mutual mistrust runs deep. Little progress has been made since and the opposition had said talks are "frozen".
Protests and clashes continue almost daily in the country that hosts the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet and is seen in the West as a key regional ally.
A member of Marzouq's defence team said the court had acquitted him on Wednesday on charges of inciting terrorism in a number of speeches and had removed a travel ban on him.
A tweet by Bahrain's public prosecutor's office said it would study the court's ruling and make a decision whether there were legal grounds for an appeal.
Campaign group Human Rights First welcomed the ruling on Marzouq, political secretary to the party's leader, but said the government needed to do more. – Reuters