MANAMA, Bahrain, June 25 (UPI) -- A prominent opposition leader in Bahrain was acquitted Wednesday of charges that he incited terrorism during a rally last September.
The prosecution argued during the trial of Wifaq leader Khalil Marzook that Marzook expressed support for the February 14 Coalition, a youth movement linked to attacks and designated a terrorist organization by the government, while speaking at a September 6 rally in the village of Saar.
According to Human Rights Watch, a video of Marzook speaking at the event showed instead that he was promoting non-violence. He was quoted as saying, "We can only support a movement as long as it is peaceful. We transparently declare: the dividing line for us is violence."
In that same video, Human Rights Watch noted, a masked man hands Marzook a flag bearing an emblem similar to that of the February 14 Coalition at the end of his speech, which he then holds for less than 45 seconds.
Marzook was arrested after the speech, a move that prompted the opposition to boycott national dialogue talks until Marzook was released from detention. The government conceded and released Marzook in October but suspended national dialogue talks in January.
Wednesday's hearing was brief.
Marzook maintained, "My innocence was inevitable from day one."
The U.S. Department of State welcomed news of the acquittal, calling the verdict "an important step towards fostering a spirit of consensus building and compromise, necessary conditions for the success of the dialogue and reconciliation process."
Newly acquitted and with the upcoming elections, Marzook observed, "The political process has to develop and become effective for us to lead Bahrain to the shores of safety through negotiations and a comprehensive process that serves the interests of all the citizens of Bahrain."