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King restores citizenship of 551 Bahrainis

King Hamad has ordered that the citizenship of 551 Bahrainis revoked by courts be restored, official media said Sunday, days after a senior UN official expressed concern about the punishment.

The king, who can reverse court decisions, requested that the competent authorities take into account “the nature of crimes committed”, the Bahrain News Agency reported.

The interior ministry has been instructed to examine files and prepare lists of those to be freed.

Human rights groups estimate that 990 mainly Shiite people have had their citizenship revoked since protests against the government early this decade.

Ruled for more than two centuries by the Sunni Al-Khalifa dynasty, Bahrain has a majority Shiite Muslim population, according to unofficial estimates contested by the government.

A Bahraini court on Tuesday revoked the citizenship of 138 people and jailed 139, at the end of a mass trial denounced by rights group Amnesty International.

Those convicted — Shiite Bahraini citizens, according to a judicial source — belonged to a group of 169 people accused of forming a “terror” group with links to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

This was the biggest group of people to have been convicted and to have lost their citizenship as a result of a single trial since the start of judicial proceedings in 2012 against people who took part in a protest movement, according to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Thursday expressed alarm about the court’s decision.

“Tuesday’s convictions give rise to serious concerns about the application of the law, particularly through a mass trial that reportedly lacked the procedural safeguards necessary to ensure a fair trial,” rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

“Deprevation of nationality must not be arbitrary, especially on discriminatory grounds,” she said, stressing that “arbitrary deprivation of nationality places the individuals concerned and their family members in a situation of increased vulnerability to human rights violations.”

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