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Bahrain Forms Commission to Investigate Rights Violations

King of Bahrain Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (file photo)

King of Bahrain Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (file photo)

Bahrain's king announced on Wednesday that an independent commission will be formed to investigate possible rights violations during recent anti-regime protests.

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa's said in a televised speech to the nation that despite an international outcry over a crackdown by the government, Bahraini leaders respect human rights and want reform.

But he says protesters pushed the Gulf nation into a "state of chaos" that led to a government backlash of arrests and trials.

The speech comes as Bahrain's minority Sunni rulers say they will begin a national dialogue on Saturday on political reform demanded by majority Shi'ites who led mass pro-democracy protests earlier this year.

The Bahraini government announced the date for the talks Monday, saying they will cover issues of politics, the economy and human rights.

But the island nation's largest Shi'ite opposition party, Wefaq, has not said whether it will take part. Wefaq has expressed concern that a national dialogue will not be credible if key opposition figures continue to be jailed.

A Bahraini security court sentenced eight Shi'ite opposition activists to life in prison last week for plotting to overthrow the monarchy during the protest movement, which began in February. Thirteen other activists were jailed for two to 15 years on similar charges of sedition.

Opposition activists also have called for the release of people detained during the protests. The detainees include 48 doctors and nurses who treated demonstrators wounded in the government crackdown.

A Bahraini security court resumed a trial Monday for 28 medical workers charged with misdemeanors. A separate trial began earlier this month for 20 other medics charged with felonies.

Meanwhile, media reports say Saudi Arabia plans to withdraw some of its 1,000 soldiers who entered Bahrain in mid-March to help bring calm. The reports say the deployment could begin on Monday.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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