Bahrain urged to free activist on hunger strike
MANAMA CIVIL society groups in Gulf states on Wednesday urged Bahraini authorities to release a jailed activist who has been on hunger strike for almost two months.
“The Bahraini government and the ruling family will be held responsible for any harm resulting from the ongoing (hunger) strike of rights activist Abdulhadi al Khawaja,” said a statement by the Gulf Forum for Civil Societies signed by its secretary general Anwar al Rasheed.
Khawaja, a Shiite who was condemned with other opposition activists to life in jail over an alleged plot to topple the Sunni monarchy during a month-long protest a year ago, began his hunger strike on the night of February 8-9.
The Forum, which groups several mostly liberal civil societies in the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, also called for Arab and international pressure on Bahrain to free Khawaja and other activists.
Front Line Defenders, a Dublin-based non-governmental organisation, warned on Tuesday after a visit to Manama that Khawaja, who it said has shed 25 percent of his body weight, could die in jail as he is “at risk of organ failure.” Bahraini authorities said on Wednesday that Khawaja lost some 10 kilogrammes (22 pounds) of weight and that he was showing signs of low hemoglobin, “although not at a critical level, since prior to going on the strike.” They said in a statement that Khawaja was “taking fluids, mineral supplements, glucose and juice on a daily basis.” Khadija al Moussawi, the activist’s wife, said on Monday on Twitter that her husband told her over the phone that he decided to refuse taking glucose “because the situation has gone worse in our beloved homeland.” Khawaja, who is also a Danish citizen, has been allowed visits by the ambassador of Denmark, the government statement said.
Wefaq, Bahrain’s main Shiite opposition formation, on Tuesday said it held the government responsible for Khawaja’s fate, accusing the authorities of “disregard for (human) life.” The country’s crisis “will worsen if something bad happens to Khawaja... and authorities will be held responsible for the outcome,” it warned.