Bahrain court orders monitoring for 11-year-old

MANAMA, Bahrain — A Bahraini court ruled Thursday that an 11-year-old boy accused of taking part in anti-government protests may remain at home but must be monitored by authorities.

The ruling appeared to bring the case to a close.

Ali Hassan's case has been closely watched because he was one of the youngest demonstrators taken into custody in the unrest in the strategic Gulf island nation, which serves as the base for the US Navy's 5th Fleet.

Bahrain has experienced more than 16 months of near daily protests in an uprising led by the kingdom's Shiite majority. It seeks greater political rights from the Western-backed Sunni monarchy.

The juvenile court judge ruled that Hassan must be monitored by a social worker for a year, according to Bahraini authorities and the boy's lawyer, Shahzalan Khamis. Visits will be scheduled once every six months.

Hassan was detained in May on charges of joining an illegal gathering and other claims related to the unrest. The government alleges he was involved in blocking roads three times on 13 May.

He was allowed to return home 11 June after a month in custody. The final ruling in his case wasn't reached until Thursday.

Even with the court's decision, Hassan's legal status remains unclear. Khamis, his lawyer, told The Associated Press that the charges against her client have not formally been dropped.

"The decision today condemns him indirectly," she said after the court's ruling. "I am not happy with the decision. This boy is innocent and did not commit a crime."

The government's Information Affairs Authority confirmed in an emailed response to questions that charges against the boy have not been dropped, but it did not clarify whether he had formally been found guilty of any crime.

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