File Photo: Khalil Marzouq, former MP for the main Shia opposition movement Al-Wefaq, speaks at a news conference held jointly by opposition societies at Al-Wefaq's headquarters in Manama, 29 July 2013 (Photo: Reuters)
A Bahraini court on Wednesday acquitted prominent Shia opposition figure Khalil Marzooq on charges of inciting terrorism in the Sunni-ruled Gulf kingdom, a judicial source said.
Marzooq, a former MP for the main Shia opposition movement Al-Wefaq, was arrested on September 17. He has been out on bail since his trial began on October 24 but prohibited from travelling abroad.
Marzooq was in court for the verdict, along with representatives of the opposition as well as delegates from the embassies of Britain, France, Germany and the United States.
The prosecutor had accused Marzooq of using his position at Al-Wefaq, which is an authorised political association, to "call for crimes that are considered terror acts under the law," according to an initial list of charges.
The prosecutor confronted Marzooq with his public speeches in which he allegedly supported the "principles of terror elements... especially the terrorist group named the February 14 Coalition, which he openly supported," the charge sheet said.
It said that Marzooq had raised the flag of the clandestine group at a public rally after it was handed to him by a masked man.
Marzooq was deputy speaker in the 40-member parliament of the Sunni-ruled monarchy before 18 MPs from the influential Al-Wefaq walked out in February 2011 in protest over violence against demonstrators.
Shia-led protests erupted on February 14, 2011 in Bahrain, taking their cue from Arab Spring uprisings elsewhere in the region and demanding democratic reforms in the absolute monarchy.
Security forces boosted by Saudi-led troops ended the protests a month later, but smaller protests frequently take place in Shia villages, triggering clashes with police.
Bahrain, a strategic archipelago just across the Gulf from Iran, is the home base of the US Fifth Fleet and Washington is a long-standing ally of the ruling Al-Khalifa dynasty.