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Protesters In Bahrain Monitor Events In Libya

RENEE MONTAGNE, Host:

We go, now, to Bahrain, where protests have grown, and in the last few days, have remained peaceful. Today, the country's king traveled out of the country to confer with another monarch, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. Before Bahrain's monarch left home, he began releasing political prisoners, as protesters had demanded. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports from the capital, Manama.

PETER KENYON: The freeing of prisoners has been a basic demand since the unrest here began, and the government has followed through on its promise, releasing some detainees in the early hours of the morning. The freed men included some two dozen accused, last year, of plotting to overthrow the government. Their supporters say the charges are politically motivated.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING IN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

KENYON: Bahraini Shiites have been anxious to take advantage of a rare burst of worldwide attention to their problems in this tiny island kingdom lodged between Saudi Arabia and Iran. But they're also well aware of what their fellow protesters are facing in other Mid East and North African countries.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH IN FOREIGN LANGUAGE THROUGH LOUDSPEAKER)

KENYON: As the mercurial Gaddafi called on soldiers and his supporters to attack demonstrators, Bahrainis shook their heads in disbelief and expressed sympathy for the Libyan people. One woman, named Fatima, voiced a common hope that such craziness would not spread.

FATIMA: Gaddafi, what he is doing for his people, and really something, nobody will accept that. And I hope our government will not do that for our people.

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING AND CHANTING)

KENYON: Unidentified Man (Bahrain Army Officer): (Through Translator) We decided that our job is to protect people and not to beat them up. The weapons that have been used against the people are weapons of shame. These weapons should be used to protect the people, and not be used against them.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING AND PROTEST)

KENYON: The army has stayed away as the demonstrations have grown, but anti- government protestors are not the only ones taking to the streets. Sunday night saw an extremely large pro-government rally at the grand mosque, featuring calls for calm, dialogue and reform. Both sides seem eager to have their rallies portrayed as the biggest.

S: Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Manama.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

MONTAGNE: You're listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.
Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.