September 18, 2014 / 4:43 PM / 5 years ago

Bahrain releases prominent human rights activist awaiting trial

Zaynab al-Khawaja, sister of detained human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja (L), Deputy Head of Mission at the Embassy of Denmark in Saudi Arabia Fikre Filali El-Gourfti and Maryam's lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi (R) stand outside a cafe near a court in Manama, September 6, 2014. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

MANAMA (Reuters) - Bahrain’s ministry of interior said on Thursday it had released human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja from detention as she awaits trial, amid international criticism of her treatment.

A tweet from the ministry said a travel ban had been imposed on Khawaja and her lawyer Mohammed al-Jishi confirmed via Twitter she had been freed and was on her way home.

Khawaja, who has joint Bahraini-Danish citizenship, has been charged with entering the Gulf island state illegally, assaulting a policewoman at the airport and insulting King Hamad. Her trial is scheduled to begin on Oct. 1.

She was detained on her arrival at the airport on Aug. 30. The official BNA news agency said at the time public prosecutors had begun an investigation into a complaint by Bahrain’s airport police.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement on Sept. 5 that Bahrain’s detention of Khawaja and other political activists was arbitrary and expressed concern that her arrest was linked to her work promoting human rights.

Khawaja’s father, Abdulhadi Abdulla Hubail al-Khawaja, is also a prominent activist for the rights of the Shi’ite Muslim majority in the Sunni-ruled kingdom. He has been detained since 2011 and is on hunger strike.

Bahrain, a base for the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has been in turmoil since the 2011 Arab uprisings, when mass protests erupted in Manama led by Shi’ites.

Shi’ites complain of political and economic marginalisation, an accusation the government denies. Talks between the government and opposition have failed to defuse tensions.

Reporting by Faristha Saeed; Writing by Maha El Dahan; Editing by Andrew Roche

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