Bahrain opposition rallies for hunger striker

AFP, Friday 6 Apr 2012

Hundreds of protesters call for the release of the Bahraini jailed activist who went on hunger strike after being condemned to life in jail over an alleged plot to topple the monarchy during last year's protests

Anti-government protesters during clashes against riot police in Bahrain in a march in ‎support of an imprisoned human rights activist who has been on a hunger strike, ‎Wednesday, April 4, 2012. (Photo: AP) ‎

Hundreds of people demonstrated in Bahrain on Friday for the release of a jailed activist who has been on hunger strike for almost two months.

Two demonstrations -- in Jidhafs district of Manama and in the village of Aali -- uged the release of rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, witnesses told AFP.

The protesters carried pictures of Khawaja alongside Bahraini flags and chanted his name.

Bahrain's largest opposition movement Al-Wefaq warned that the activist's life was now in danger and urged the international community to intervene and press for his release.

Khawaja, 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.

Late on Thursday, Al-Wefaq said his daughter Zainab al-Khawaja was arrested after she protested outside the interior ministry's hospital where her father was being held to urge his release.

"In a phone call to her husband, Zainab announced starting a hunger strike in solidarity with her father," said the Shiite opposition grouping.

A police statement on state news agency BNA said she was arrested for having "attacked a public employee who was doing his duty" and who "repeatedly informed her she was not allowed to stand at the entrance" to the ministry.

Front Line Defenders, a Dublin-based non-governmental organisation, warned 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 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 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 said.

Tensions have been running high in Bahrain where an independent inquiry said in November that 35 people were killed in the Shiite-led unrest between mid-February and mid-March 2011.

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