- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 6, 2011

MANAMA, BAHRAIN — 147 Bahraini detainees are set to be released within a matter of hours, the head of the kingdom’s independent commission of inquiry told The Washington Times in a phone interview Saturday night.

“I confirm that I have been promised that,” said Cherif Bassiouni, the Egyptian-American head of a recently launched inquiry into alleged human rights abuses that took place during the protests of February and March and their aftermath. The new mass release follows the freeing of 41 prisoners last week.

Mr. Bassiouni said that two members of parliament from the Shiite opposition Wefaq political society would be among the new group.

He explained that all 147 had been under the custody of military prosecutor general, accused of misdemeanors, and that the king had agreed to his request that they all be transferred to civilian courts prior to the royal order establishing the commission last month. Due to a bureaucratic mixup, however, he said the cases were not immediately transferred and he realized that most would linger in jail due to the onset of Ramadan, in most cases exceeding the maximum 6-month sentences for their alleged crimes.

“I don’t distinguish between political people and non-political people,” Mr. Bassiouni said. “To me, they’re all human beings and if they’re in prison arbitrarily. I’m going to try to get them out.”

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