Manama: Bahrain's King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa on Monday ordered political prisoners freed in the latest bid to ignite talks to end a standoff with protesters which has forced the Bahrain Grand Prix to be scrapped.
The King's decision came in response to calls at a large pro-government Sunni rally that pledged allegiance to the Al Khalifa dynasty but also urged him to release political prisoners.
Thousands of government supporters had thronged Fateh mosque in the capital, waving red-and-white Bahraini flags and chanting "Long live Abu Salman," an endearing name for King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa.
The rally stressed the legitimacy of the existing political regime and emphasised that Bahrain and its stability are of paramount importance and cannot be compromised in any way.
At the same time, protesters camped out in Pearl Square in the city centre, hoping for people to converge on Pearl Square on Tuesday.
A senior opposition figure who was being tried in absentia said he planned to return home on Tuesday, adding yet more pressure - Hassan Mashaima, a leader of the opposition Haq movement, told AFP before King Hamad's pardon he would return to Manama.
The names of those included in the King's pardon will be announced on Tuesday, state news agency BNA reported.