• Press Release

Human Rights Coalition Urges President Obama to Act to Save the Life of Bahraini Activist on Hunger Strike

April 9, 2012

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, 212-633-4150, [email protected]

(New York) — Amnesty International, along with 14 other human rights organizations, today urged President Obama to publicly demand that the Bahraini authorities release activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, whose life is at risk after eight weeks on a hunger strike.

The human rights and labor coalition said Al-Khawaja must be allowed to leave Bahrain to travel abroad, including for medical treatment, if he wants to do so.

In a letter to President Obama, the groups wrote: "The evidence is clear that Al-Khawaja and others were sentenced in violation of their rights to freedom of expression, assembly and association, which are protected under international law."

"It's outrageous that Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is serving a life prison sentence for criticizing the government. And now his life is on the line after eight weeks on a hunger strike.  We are asking President Obama to help save this man's life," said Sanjeev Bery, Amnesty International USA advocacy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Al-Khawaja was beaten so severely in prison that his jaw and skull were cracked.  He has had several surgeries on his face and face to treat the injuries.

Al-Khawaja, 52, is a former protection co-ordinator with Frontline, an NGO that supports human rights defenders. He was arrested in April last year among the other leaders of anti-government protests and sentenced to life imprisonment in a grossly unfair trial by a military court last June.
Al-Khawaja has not eaten for more than eight weeks in protest at his sentence.  His family told Amnesty International that he has now reduced his intake of glucose and minerals.
Al-Khawaja, who is married with four daughters, is also a citizen of Denmark, where he lived in exile for decades. He returned to Bahrain after the government announced a general amnesty in 2001. Danish diplomats have visited him in prison several times and confirmed his deteriorating health.
In addition to Amnesty International, the letter to President Obama was signed by the following organizations:

Project on Middle East Democracy
Amnesty International
3P Human Security
Physicians for Human Rights
Freedom House
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
Just Foreign Policy
Foreign Policy Initiative
AFL-CIO Solidarity Center
Citizens for Global Solutions
American for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain
Open Society Foundations
Universal Muslim Association of America

The letter to President Obama may be read at this site: http://bit.ly/letter-bahrain-2012-04a

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.8 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.