Amnesty International Demands Release of Bahraini Hunger Striker and Other Activists

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Amnesty International Demands Release of Bahraini Hunger Striker and Other Activists

Human rights organization states activists granted appeal, but still remain in jail

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, strimel@aiusa.org, 212-633-4150

(New York) -- Amnesty International today urged Bahrain again to release 13 opposition activists, including hunger striker Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, after a court announced they will be granted an appeal. The activists were jailed for their roles in anti-government protests that swept the country last year.

“Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and the 13 other activists – who are all civilians - should not even be on trial in the first place, let alone tried in a military court” said Ann Harrison, Amnesty International’s deputy program director for the Middle East and North Africa. “They have done nothing but peacefully express their point of view and must be released immediately.”

Amnesty International considers Al-Khawaja and the 13 other prominent opposition activists held with him to be prisoners of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

Al-Khawaja’s health has seriously deteriorated since he began a hunger strike some three months ago in protest at his unfair imprisonment. His family visited him at a hospital on Sunday and told Amnesty International that he was force-fed.

Al-Khawaja explained to his family that on April 23, a nurse gave him an anesthetic. When he woke up, he had a tube extending from his nose to his stomach feeding him liquids. The tube to the stomach was taken out last Friday. He is currently on an intravenous drip and drinking juice. He had apparently asked the doctor several times to withdraw the tube but his requests were refused.

Al-Khawaja also repeatedly asked to see his lawyer who submitted formal requests for a visit, but has been denied for weeks.

The activists' appeals will take place in a civil court. The sentences imposed on Al-Khawaja and the other activists, seven of them tried in absentia, remain. All but one of the activists may remain in jail for the duration of the appeal.

The Court of Cassation said Al-Hur Yousef al-Somaikh’s original sentence was flawed and was reduced from two years to six months imprisonment. The activist is expected to be released today.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.