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BAHRAIN: Press Release – HUNGER STRIKE FOR FREEDOM- Human rights defender Abdulhadi Al- Khawaja enters 50th day of hunger strike
PRESS RELEASE - 28 MARCH 2012 - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE On 29th March leading Bahraini human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja will enter the 50th day of his hunger strike. Given that he has already been weakened by torture and previous hunger strikes Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned for this health.
Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is an internationally known and respected human rights defender. He co-founded and was the first President of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and has previously worked with Front Line Defenders, the Dublin based international human rights organisation and Amnesty International. He was named as ‘Activist of the Year’ in 2005 by the Arab Program for Human Rights Activists.
Abdulhadi's deteriorating situation is a cause of deep concern. He has been briefly hospitalised on several occasions but is currently back in the prison. According to his family his blood pressure is low and his urine test shows 2+ ketones and his blood sugar is 2.6. According to medical advice received by Front Line Defenders - “this is due to starvation and he is at risk”.
“I call on the Bahraini authorities to immediately release Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja on humanitarian grounds and allow him to go to Denmark for medical treatment as proposed by the Danish Government and supported by the UK and German governments and the European Parliament” said Andrew Anderson deputy director of Front Line Defenders in Dublin today ( Wednesday). Abdulhadi Al Khawaja has said that for him it is a choice of “Freedom or Death”
Al-Khawaja is protesting at his brutal arrest and detention, his torture while in custody and his life sentence handed down by the National Safety Court in trials which fell far short of international fair trial standards. This fact was acknowledged by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Enquiry (BICI).
On 9 April 2011, up to 20 armed and masked policemen broke into the family’s apartment in the middle of the night. Abdulhadi was dragged down the stairs and was beaten by up to five officers, including suffering kicks directly to the head. He was taken away unconscious. The family was not told where Abdulhadi had been taken or what he was accused of. Also arrested were two of Abdulhadi’s sons-in-law, who were detained until 24 January 2012.
As a result of the injuries suffered upon his arrest, Abdulhadi required a 4-hour surgery to repair damage to his face. He spent 7 days in hospital, where the surgery left him with permanent damage and metal plates in his face to hold his jaw together.
On 22 June 2011, Abdulhadi was convicted and given a life sentence on charges of “organising and managing a terrorist organisation”, “attempt to overthrow the Government by force and in liaison with a terrorist organisation working for a foreign country” and the “collection of money for a terrorist group.”
“Internationally, nobody believes the ludicrous and unsubstantiated proposition that Abdulhadi Al Khawaja was engaged in terrorism or a conspiracy to overthrow to the Government by force” said Mr Anderson.
“As we continue to mobilise international concern and press the Bahraini authorities to recognise that this is a situation they have to resolve. The steadfast and dignified dedication of Abdulhadi's family reminds us that we must rise above despair and embrace hope” he added.
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