DUBAI (Reuters) - A prominent Bahraini doctor jailed for five years in connection with the 2011 Arab Spring uprising for democracy was released from prison on Friday, a lawyer and witness said.
Ali al-Ekry was among 20 medics, all Shi’ite Muslims, who were sentenced in September 2011 to prison terms ranging from five to 15 years on charges including occupying a hospital, theft of medical equipment and incitement to topple the state.
Most were cleared or given reduced sentences on appeal, including Ekry, a senior orthopaedic surgeon at Manama’s Salmaniya hospital.
Bahrain has crushed the revolt with help from fellow Gulf Cooperation Council members but tensions continued to simmer with the government and the opposition failing to reach an agreement on sharing power in the Sunni-ruled western allied country where the U.S. Fifth Fleet is based.
Bahraini lawyer Abdullah al-Shamlawi congratulated Ekry on his release in a tweet.
The release coincided with rising tensions in the Western-allied Gulf Arab kingdom as authorities step up a crackdown on the opposition in what rights groups said was a drive to root out dissent.
Authorities have closed down the country’s main political group al-Wefaq and have petitioned a court to ban the secular Waad Association.
They have revoked the citizenship of the Ayatollah Isa Qassim, the spiritual leader of the country’s Shi’ite majority, who is also on trial on charges of money laundering which he denies.
The case stems from what Bahraini media had said was an investigation by authorities into a bank account in Qassim’s name containing about $10 million.
The move spurred a strongly-worded statement from top clerics, including Qassim, against any attempt to meddle with the collection of a Muslim tax called Khums, which is a pillar of Shi’ite Islam.
Reporting by Sami Aboudi, editing by Ed Osmond