x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Bahrain says Al Khawaja is fed fluids and not in critical state

Bahrain's government however issued medical details saying Mr Al Khawaja showed no signs of critical problems and is taking fluids.

Shiite rallies demanding the release of Abdulhadi Al Khawaja have often led to clashes with Bahrain security forces.
Shiite rallies demanding the release of Abdulhadi Al Khawaja have often led to clashes with Bahrain security forces.

MANAMA // Denmark's prime minister has urged Bahrain to release a jailed activist with dual citizenship, saying he's in "very critical" condition after a two-month hunger strike.

But the Gulf kingdom denies his health is failing.

Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, 52, and seven other opposition leaders were sentenced to life in prison for anti-state crimes last year in a special security court created after Bahrain imposed martial law to quell political unrest. Bahrain's majority Shiites began an uprising in February last year seeking a greater political voice.

The Danish prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, said: "What we're hearing now is that Al Khawaja's condition is very critical. And we continue our efforts at all levels".

Bahrain's government however issued medical details saying Mr Al Khawaja showed no signs of critical problems and is taking fluids.

International pressure on the Gulf state has been stepped up after a judicial panel last week refused Denmark's request to take custody of Mr Al Khawaja.

Human rights organisations have urged Bahrain to free him immediately because of fears he could die. A statement issued on Tuesday by Amnesty International in London said the activist's "health is rapidly deteriorating as he passes his 60th day of hunger strike".

Mr Al Khawaja, 52, is a former Middle East and North Africa director of the Frontline Defenders Rights organisation in Ireland. He has been refusing food since February 8.

Bahrain's opposition supporters have been staging daily rallies for Mr Al Khawaja's release, frequently clashing with security forces. The demonstrations have fuelled rising tensions in the kingdom less than two weeks before it is to stage the Formula One grand prix race - its premier international event that was cancelled last year because of the political unrest.

Mr Al Khawaja was arrested last April during a government crackdown on dissent. At least 50 people have died in 14 months of unrest.

Mobs with iron rods and sticks ransacked a supermarket belonging to a major Shiite-owned business group yesterday, a company official said, as part of a spike in violence in retaliation for a bomb attack on police. The attack appeared to be linked to a wave of reprisals and intimidation by suspected Sunni groups angered by the 14-month uprising by Bahrain's Shiite majority.