Bahrain activist al-Khawaja to travel home, press for father's release

Reuters · 09/15/2023 09:09
Bahrain activist al-Khawaja to travel home, press for father's release

By Aziz El Yaakoubi

- A daughter of prominent Bahraini rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is planning to return to the Gulf state along with a group of international activists on Friday to press for her father's release from prison, rights groups said.

Khawaja, who is also a Danish citizen, is a former president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights and is serving a life sentence for his role in Bahrain's pro-democracy protests in 2011.

His daughter Maryam said she will travel to Bahrain because her father was denied access to urgent and critical medical treatment, part of the reason why he is on hunger strike.

"I know that going back means that I might end up spending the rest of my life in prison," she said in a video posted on social media.

"I am attempting to go back to try to raise pressure and attention around his case," added Khawaja, who lives in Denmark.

A group of activists said they will join her, including Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard and Front Line Defenders' Olive Moore, the two organisations told Reuters on Friday.

The Bahraini government did immediately respond to questions on whether the group will be allowed in Bahrain or if there are any charges against Maryam Al-Khawaja.

On Wednesday, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja resumed his hunger strike after authorities did allow him to get to a scheduled medical appointment, his second daughter, Zainab, told Reuters.

His decision followed an announcement by rights groups that hundreds of other political prisoners had suspended their hunger strike as the government promised to improve prison conditions.

On Wednesday the government denied Khawaja was on hunger strike, adding he has "repeatedly and voluntarily declined to attend his regular medical appointments".

"Abdulhadi al-Khawaja's health is stable with serious concerns," it said.

Tensions in Bahrain's prisons emerged as Washington and Manama signed a strategic security and economic agreement which U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said would expand defence and intelligence collaboration between the two countries.

(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi, Editing by William Maclean)

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