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Charges dropped against Bahrain opposition leader

A court in Bahrain's capital, Manama, on Monday dropped the last charges against former member of parliament and Al-Wefaq [party website, in Arabic] leader Matar Matar [official twitter]. Two previous charges were dropped against Matar in August: "calling for regime change" and "spreading rumors linked to pro-democracy protests." The final charge, "undermining public security by assembling with a group of more than five people," was dropped on Monday, although Matar had been free since August. Matar claimed to be tortured in prison [BBC report] at that time, although state-run news media stated Matar's lawyer denied this [BNA report]. Although Matar was released on the charges stemming from his opposition actions, last month state media for Bahrain announced that new measures will be taken against protesters [JURIST report] in light of recent violence against police officers. The Cabinet of Bahrain [official website, in Arabic] will soon amend the penal code to include a 15-year prison sentence for "instigators and implementers" of physical assault against police officers

Protests and demonstrations in Bahrain [BBC backgrounder] have been ongoing since February 2011 [JURIST report]. In response to the BICI report, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa [official profile] swore that reforms would be made. Al Khalifa promised to amend the nation's constitution [text] earlier this month, to allow the National Assembly [official profile] more oversight of ministers and cabinet members. Earlier this month, a Bahraini court on overturned the death sentences for two protesters convicted of killing two police officers during the demonstrations that took place in the country last year. The original conviction was rendered by a special security court set up as part of the emergency law in place while the country's Sunni rulers attempted to silence a Shiite-led to effort bolster civil and political rights in the country. In December, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that the Bahrain government should release prisoners detained during peaceful protests [JURIST reports] and focus on rebuilding national trust in the government. Pillay's statement followed a visit by a team of human rights officials to Bahrain at the invitation of the Bahrain government.

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