Bahrain: “It is impossible to imagine that the Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead if Abdulhadi Alkhawaja dies on hunger strike in prison,”

“It is impossible to imagine that the Bahrain Grand Prix will go ahead if Abdulhadi Alkhawaja dies on hunger strike in prison,” said Mary Lawlor, Executive Director of Front Line Defenders in Manama, Tuesday".

PRESS RELEASE Issued Manama, Bahrain, 03 April 2012 EMBARGOED 15.00pm Irish Time – 17.00pm Bahrain Time

“The Bahraini authorities clearly want to present an image of business as usual but their seeming indifference to the plight of Abdulhadi, who has reached his 55th day without food, risks tragic consequences.”

Front Line Defenders visited Bahrain from 1st-3rd April in order to attend former staff member Abdulhadi Alkhawaja's hearing before the Court of Cassation on 2nd April. Abdulhadi was not brought to court for the hearing and the delegation were not given permission to meet with him in Jaw prison.

“I was able to speak briefly with him on the phone and ask him to take some food,” said Mary Lawlor, “but he insisted that he would continue with his hunger strike until freedom or death. Unfortunately, I know just how determined he is.”

Abdulhadi started his hunger strike on the night of 8th/9th February. He was also part of a group hunger strike for 7 days from January 29th, so he has been on hunger strike for 62 of the last 65 days.

He has now lost some 25% of his body weight, which means he is at serious risk of organ failure. According to medical advice sought by Front Line Defenders he is in danger. During his periods of hospitalisation he was placed on a drip and he has accepted at various times glucose or minerals in liquid form, but he is currently said to be refusing everything except water.

Abdulhadi was arrested in April 2011, tortured and then sentenced to life in prison after a grossly unfair trial. Front Line Defenders met with Abdulhadi's family and lawyer during the visit and the family provided a translation of a letter they had received from Abdulhadi the day before. It reads:

"My dear & beloved family, from behind prison bars, I send to you my love & yearning. From a free man, to a free family. These prison walls don't separate me from you, they bring us closer together. Our connection & determination is stronger than ever. We take our strength, from beautiful memories. Remembering every trip, every meal we ate together, all the conversations, remembering every smile, all the jokes & the laughter. The distance between us disappears, through our love & faith.

It's true: I am in here, & you are out there. But, you are in here with me, and I am out there with you. Our pain is made more bearable when we remember we chose this difficult path & took an oath to remain on it. We must not only remain patient through our suffering, we must never allow the pain to conquer our souls. Let our hearts be filled with joy, and an acceptance of the responsibility we have been given for in the end, this life is about finding a path of truth towards God".

Front Line Defenders has called on the Bahraini authorities to allow him to travel to Denmark for medical treatment (Abdulhadi holds Danish as well as Bahraini citizenship). Earlier today Abdulhadi ALkhawaja was transferred to the Ministry of the Interior clinic for monitoring due to the deterioration in his condition.

Time is running out to resolve this situation and avoid tragic consequences for Abdulhadi and for Bahrain.

Mary Lawlor, Executive Director Front Line Defenders and Deputy Director Andrew Anderson are currently in Bahrain on day three of their mission to the country.

Mary Lawlor will be available for interview from 17.00pm Bahrain time 15.00PM Irish time

For further Information contact:

Jim Loughran, Head of Communications Front Line Defenders at:

Tel +353 1 212 37 50 or MOB +353 (0)87 9377586