A prominent human rights activist in Bahrain has been released from prison after spending nearly two years behind bars.

Nabeel Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was sentenced to three years in 2012 on charges of encouraging "illegal gatherings" tied to anti-government protests in the country. An appeals court later reduced the term by a year.

Moments after his release on Saturday, Rajab told The Associated Press that he is happy to be out after more than 600 days in prison. He also called for the release of all political prisoners.

Rajab says Bahrain can only achieve stability "through respect for human rights."

Since 2011, Bahrain has seen near-daily protests demanding greater rights for the nation's Shiite majority from the country's Sunni monarchy.