Story highlights

The charges to be dropped relate to free-speech rights, state media reports

The decision will apply to 43 cases, affecting 343 people

Bahrain is working to recover from criticism over a crackdown on protests

CNN  — 

Bahrain’s public prosecutor announced Saturday that he will drop some charges against opposition protesters detained in this year’s unrest, state media reported.

The charges that will be dropped relate “to speech protected by the right to freedom of expression,” the Bahrain News Agency reported.

Forty-three cases applying to 343 people will benefit from the announcement, according to BNA.

The move comes as the oil-rich country that is also home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet works to recover from harsh criticism over its handling of opposition protests this year. A report released in November by an independent commission found police tortured and used excessive force against civilians arrested during a crackdown on the protests.

BNA said Saturday’s announcement by public prosecutor Ali bin Fadhl Albuainain is “in line” with the recommendations made by the commission, which called for a series of reforms to the country’s legal code and better training of its security forces.

Albuainain also said his office will continue to assess the cases of detained opposition protesters “relating to right of rallying,” BNA reported.

“Other cases will remain pending as they involve crimes of violence and sabotage,” according to BNA.

Demonstrations demanding political reform and greater freedoms in Sunni-ruled, Shiite-majority Bahrain began February 14 before authorities – backed by troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – cracked down in two waves, first in February and later in mid-March.

Thirty civilians and five security officers were killed during that time, the commission said.

Opposition groups say more than 1,000 people – mainly Shiites – have been detained for allegedly taking part in the demonstrations.