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Woman on hunger strike over Bahrain arrests

Zainab Alkhawaja, daughter of a prominent Bahraini activist, writes a letter addressed to the US president, Barack Obama, on her blog, Angry Arabiya, announcing the start of her hunger strike.

MANAMA // The daughter of a prominent Bahraini activist says she is on hunger strike to protest against the arrest of her father, husband and other relatives in an ongoing crackdown after weeks of pro-democracy protests.

Zainab Alkhawaja wrote a letter addressed to the US president, Barack Obama, on her blog, Angry Arabiya, announcing the start of her hunger strike on Monday and urging the US president to call for the release of her family.

"I chose to write to you and not to my own government because the Al Khalifa regime has proven that they do not care about our rights or our lives," she said.

"I demand the immediate release of my family members. My father, Abdulhadi Alkhawaja. My husband, Wafi Almajed. My brother-in-law, Hussein Ahmed. My uncle, Salah Alkhawaja."

It appeared to be the first time an activist has gone on hunger strike since the government began the crackdown last month.

On Monday, Bahrain said it had released 86 people held under martial law while "legal measures" were being taken against other detainees under martial law. The government has not said how many people it is holding but human rights activists talk of hundreds.

On Sunday, Two Bahraini Shiite activists detained in the wake of anti-regime protests died in detention, Bahrain's interior ministry said on Sunday.

Bahrain's leading opposition group Al Wefaq said yesterday three Shi'ite doctors and several staff from the education ministry had been arrested on Monday, bringing the total number of detainees to 453.

"After these problems, many are afraid to contact us," said Wefaq member Mattar Ibrahim Mattar. "I estimate the real number is not less than 600. That's one in every 1,000 Bahrainis," he said.

* Reuters