Bahrain on Thursday stopped bringing anti-government protesters to trial at a special tribunal with military prosecutors, a lawyer said, ending a practice criticized as unfair by rights activists and the Western allies.
The tribunal was set up in March when Bahrain’s government imposed martial law to restore order after a series of protests brought the country to a standstill.
The trials of dozens of opposition figures, human rights activists and professionals continued even after the emergency laws were lifted earlier this month.
A lawyer for a doctor who is among 47 health professionals on trial after they treated injured protesters said the proceedings have been moved to civilian courts. The medical staff are charged with participating in an effort to topple the government.
A hearing in the case of 20 doctors set for Thursday was canceled, the lawyer said.
The decision to shift trials to civilian courts comes as the government tries to open reconciliation talks with the opposition.
In an apparent effort to draw opposition groups into the government-sponsored talks, Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on Wednesday announced the creation of an independent commission that will investigate allegations that protesters’ rights were violated during the anti-government unrest.
The king’s appeal for dialogue, set to begin on Saturday, got a cool reception from opposition groups. The leaders of the biggest party Al-Wefaq have not yet decided whether they will join talks.