Anti-government demonstrators carry a prisoner pardoned by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa in the air after he was released from police custody, (Reuters).
Bahrain began freeing political and other prisoners on Wednesday, including 23 accused of seeking to overthrow the kingdom's Sunni Muslim monarchy, a Shi'ite opposition lawmaker said.
"It is a positive move," Ibrahim Mattar of the main Shi'ite Wefaq party told Reuters, saying more than 100 prisoners had been released before dawn, but dozens remained in jail. Those released included 21 common criminals, he said.
The release of political prisoners has been a demand of protesters seeking an elected government in Bahrain, where seven people were killed and hundreds wounded in protests last week.
"Allowing the people to protest and releasing those people are positive moves," Mattar said. Opposition groups were waiting for the royal family to accept the principle of a constitutional monarchy before they would enter into a dialogue.
"The main point we are waiting for is the initiative for political reform. Until now they didn't promise anything," Mattar said. "If they don't say it, we are wasting our time."