MANAMA, Bahrain -- Bahrain's king ordered the immediate release of a human rights activist who was convicted of inciting hatred of the government and sentenced to one year in prison yesterday in a case linked to criticism of the prime minister.
The intervention by the king, Sheik Hamad, occurred hours after Abdul-Hadi al-Khawaja was sentenced in a courtroom where scores of his supporters chanted slogans against the prime minister.
Khawaja, the executive director of the now-dissolved Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was detained Sept. 25 after he called publicly for the resignation of Sheik Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, accusing him of being responsible for economic failures and human rights violations.
The king ordered Khawaja released, saying he was pardoning him ''from spending the rest of his sentence in jail, to suffice with the period he spent in jail before issuing this decree."
The decree appeared to be a suspension of the remainder of the sentence rather than a pardon of the charges.
''I am happy that he is coming out," said Khadija al-Mousawi, his wife. ''The authorities shouldn't have put him on trial or put him behind bars in the first place."
''There is a little bit of justice somewhere," she said, calling the decree a ''good gesture" by the king.
Hamad also ordered the release of 13 people who were arrested last month during a demonstration conducted by his supporters. The arrest of Khawaja had raised fears that Bahrain, which has made democratic reforms, was taking new action against dissent.