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Human rights defender renews hunger strike, calls on EU states to take more action

(BCHR/IFEX) - 23 February 2012 - Human rights defender and previous MENA Coordinator for Front Line Defenders, Mr. Abdulhadi Alkhawaja (51 years old), has entered his 15th day on open hunger strike for freedom in his detention in Bahrain prison, which he started on 8 February 2012. His health is deteriorating as he has lost 9 kilos, and signs of fatigue are clearly showing on him. He has difficulty moving and concentrating. He has been taken to the hospital multiple times in the past days due to a drop in his blood sugar, but he is continuing his hunger strike.

In a letter that he wrote to the Danish Foreign Minister, Danish-Bahraini human rights defender Alkhawaja called EU member states to take action as per the EU-Guidelines to protect human rights defender.

"As a human rights defender, regardless of being a Danish citizen, I am entitled for protection by EU member states in accordance with the EU Guidelines on the protection of human rights defenders around the world. Hence, I would suggest that the Danish authorities kindly put more efforts, in coordination with the other EU states, to take whatever possible action at the regional level as embassies, in Brussels' institutions ad at the UN in Geneva, to address my case and the cases of other detained activists, calling for the release, reparation and protection for human rights defenders in Bahrain."

Click here to read AlKhawaja's full letter.

AlKhawaja has been detained since 9 April 2011. He has been sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court in June 2011 along with another 20 activists and political leaders. His sentence was upheld in September 2011 by the military court of appeal. No date set yet for his case at the court of cassation. He is a victim of torture and a prisoner of conscience.

During a private visit on 23 February 2012, he told his lawyer:

"I thank whoever stood in solidarity with me and people of Bahrain outside and inside the country. The case is not only about me, it's about all those wrongfully detained in Bahrain. My hungerstrike is a part of my human rights defence inside jail. It's very important to focus on all detainees as I'm just a part of them. I will continue with my hunger strike until I achieve my demands, regardless of the consequences. I'm aware that freedom is expensive and we must sacrifice to gain it."

This is his second hunger strike with a gap of two days between them (the last strike began on January 29 and ended on February 5) and he was transferred to the hospital after a drop in his sugar level and blood pressure.

Family members have said that although Alkhawaja was in high spirits, he looked thin and weak and had obvious problems concentrating.

Mr.Alkhawaja also confirmed that he had collapsed last Wednesday (15 February 2012) and was transferred to the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital after a sharp drop in his sugar and blood pressure. He was first transferred to the Jaw Prison clinic but when medics saw his condition they quickly called for an ambulance. He was semi-conscious when he was transported via an ambulance to the hospital where he suffered from muscle spasms. He received treatment but refused to end his hunger strike.

We urge you to immediately intervene and follow up with the government of Bahrain and to call for :

1. The immediate and unconditional release of human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, and the other detained activists, and drop all charges against them;

2. An independent, thorough and impartial investigation into the reported torture and ill-treatment of defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, with a view to identify those who are responsible, and bringing them to justice;

3. Assurances that all human rights defenders in Bahrain, carrying out their legitimate work in the defence work of human rights, are able to operate free of restrictions and reprisals.

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