Daughter of Bahraini hunger striker says he will continue protest against sentence

 

THE DAUGHTER of a Bahraini activist who has been on hunger strike for more than 70 days has said her father is determined to continue his protest against a life sentence for his role in anti-regime demonstrations last year.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who previously worked for Dublin-based human rights organisation Front Line Defenders, had been moved to a clinic after 58 days on hunger strike and was fed intravenously there. Yesterday he announced that from now on he would only consume water.

“He called my mother today and told her he felt very weak,” Maryam al-Khawaja told The Irish Times last night. “My father is going to go all the way with this. He has made it very clear that he loves life but he loves freedom even more.

“My father is using the last thing he has control of, which is his own body, to protest what is going on in relation to his case but also the cases of the other 700-800 people who are in prison today in Bahrain for political reasons.”

Mr Khawaja was arrested last April following anti-regime rallies in the Bahraini capital, Manama. The tiny Gulf kingdom, which has a Shia majority, erupted in violence after activists were driven from a roundabout they had been occupying. Mr Khawaja was found guilty by a special court of trying to overthrow the ruling Sunni monarchy. Amnesty International said his conviction was based on a confession made under duress, and no evidence was presented showing he had used or advocated violence during the protests.

Mary Lawlor of Front Line Defenders attended the most recent hearing. “Front Line Defenders and all other human rights organisations monitoring the situation in Bahrain have reported that the trial and conviction of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was nothing less than a legal charade underpinned by the denial of the right to call witnesses for the defence, cross-examine witnesses for the prosecution or have the repeated, serious and credible allegations of torture properly examined by the court,” Ms Lawlor said.

Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, has also called for Mr Khawaja’s release, saying his health was “seriously deteriorating and his life is at risk”. Bahrain has refused Denmark’s offer to take him in. “The EU urges in the strongest possible terms the Bahraini authorities to find a compassionate, pragmatic and humanitarian solution . . . as a matter of the utmost urgency,” Baroness Ashton said.