After 110 days, Bahraini human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is ending his hunger strike on Monday. His lawyer, Mohamed al-Jishi, said that the 51-year-old activist, who has not eaten since February 8, decided to begin eating again “because his strike succeeded in bringing attention to the cause of Bahraini protesters agitating for political change,” says the New York Times. “The Bahraini cause has been raised clearly and comprehensively around the world,” al-Jishi added, noting that al-Khawaja was seeking to draw attention to “the detention of what he calls political prisoners and limits on freedom of expression.”
Al-Khawaja has been receiving fluids intravenously and drinking juice and appeared at a hearing last week in a wheel chair. His daughter, Maryam al-Khawaja, says in Al Jazeera that ”It’s very good news. We supported him in that position, but now we’ll worry less because his life won’t be at risk.” Family members say that he was force-fed by doctors while in the hospital; he has reportedly lost one-fifth of his body weight.
Al-Khawaja was sentenced to life in prison last June following months of popular protests in the Gulf kingdom, which is a US ally and houses the US Navy’s fifth fleet. At least 50 people have been killed in demonstrations which continue daily. Most of the protesters are Shi’ites, who comprise the majority of Bahrain’s population and have described discrimination under the country’s Sunni monarchy. Pro-democracy were inspired by the Arab Spring protests and have sought to limit the monarchy’s wide-ranging powers. The monarchy has made some concessions about police and detention centers but hardly the far-ranging changes demanded by protesters.
Six other protesters were sentenced to life in prison along with al-Khawaja by a military court. They are among a group of 21 whose cases are to re-examined by a civilian court, with al-Khawaja’s next hearing set for Tuesday.
Others charged with crimes against the Baharaini regime were doctors, nurses and medical staff who treated protesters in the capital of Manama during demonstrations in the spring of 2011.
Also on Monday, Nabeel Rajab, the president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was released on bail after being imprisoned for three weeks for using social media to insult the Bahraini authorities and encourage protests. Local and international human rights groups have strongly protested Rajab’s arrest. At a court session earlier this month, Rajab objected to the charges against him, saying that “I only practised my right to free expression. I did not commit a crime.”
Released on bail of 300 dinars ($800), Najab has been banned from traveling. He had been arrested on May 5 at the Manama International Airport after returning from Lebanon.
Activist Zainab al-Khawaja, al-Khawaja’s daughter, remains imprisoned after being arrested on April 21 at a rally to protest Bahrain holding a Formula 1 Grand Prix race.
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