The Central Business District of Manama, Bahrain, which lies along the northern coast of Manama. Image Credit: Agency

Manama: The Bahraini government on Thursday announced a two-week grace period for citizens fighting in “jihad” missions abroad or in regional conflicts to return, saying they will face no criminal charges during this time.

After the two weeks, the government will take strict action, including revoking the passports of returnees who are found to be involved in or have been deceived into joining any movement in conflict zones, particularly in Syria, Bahrain’s interior ministry was quoted as saying.

“It is well known that participating in violent acts in conflict zones often has adverse psychological effects,” the ministry said. “Therefore, we, in cooperation with other government authorities, will provide a special counselling programme to assist those who return to Bahrain within two weeks.”

It said the returnees will be assisted in a variety of ways to ensure that they are able to return to their professional and social lives.

The ministry, however, warned that after the two-week grace period, criminal charges may be applied to returnees in accordance with laws.

Bahrain has been following developments in the Syrian conflict with great concern, saying some of its citizens had gone to Syria to join the fighting. It warned Bahrainis not to take part in the fighting with opposition groups outside Bahrain or engage in regional or international conflicts.

The ministry said a punishment of up to five years’ imprisonment awaits any citizen who cooperates with or joins any society, authority, organisation or group based outside Bahrain that endorses terrorism.

Three Bahrainis have reportedly died in the fighting against Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s forces.

Bahrain was following a decision taken by Saudi Arabia on March 7, when the kingdom listed the Muslim Brotherhood and two Syrian jihadist groups as terrorist organisations and ordered Saudis fighting abroad to return home within 15 days or face prison terms of up to 20 years.