Jailed Dane begins new hunger strike in Bahrain

Activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja started a new hunger strike on Monday. The last time he did it, it led to a massive – but unsuccessful – attempt to get him released.

Jailed Dane begins new hunger strike in Bahrain
An image released by Abdulhadi al-Khawaja's lawyer during his 2012 hunger strike. Photo: Alwefaq Society
The jailed Danish-Bahranian activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has started another hunger strike, his family has reported. 
The last time al-Khawaja went on a hunger strike it lasted 110 days, attracted global headlines and led to what the then Foreign Minister, Villy Søvndal, called the “largest Danish consular effort ever” to obtain his release. 
Al-Khawaja, a dual citizen of Denmark and Bahrain, has been in a Bahraini prison since 2011, serving a life sentence for demonstrating against the government and organising protests during the Arab Spring. Along with eight others, he was convicted on charges of terrorism and attempting to overthrow the government. While jailed in Bahrain, al-Khawaja has been subjected to torture, violence and sexual abuse.
In February 2012, al-Khawaja began a hunger strike that he vowed to continue until he was either released or dead. His captors were accused of force-feeding him and in May 2012 he called it off. In January 2013, al-Khawaja lost the final legal appeal against his life sentence.
Denmark’s efforts to get al-Khawaja released or transferred to a Danish prison, which included a personal appeal from Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, have been rebuffed by Bahraini officials. 
However, a July report from the Bahraini news source Gulf Daily News said that al-Khawaja’s imprisonment was likely to be a topic at September’s meeting of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. 
The report indicates that Bahrain may be open to transferring al-Khawaja to Denmark. 
"I have spoken with Foreign Ministry officials in Bahrain and Denmark about extraditing Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja and letting him serve his remaining sentence there. This is not a pardon, but extradition that will settle this issue so that Denmark and the European Union will stop attacking us on such international platforms,” the Bahraini parliament’s human rights committee chairman Ahmed Al Sa'ati told The Gulf Daily News. 
Denmark’s Foreign Ministry confirmed to The Local that the two countries have continued to discuss al-Khawaja’s case but declined to give specifics. 
“Denmark is continuing to provide consular assistance to Mr. al-Khawaja and we are in contact with the Bahraini authorities with the case. Due to our duty of confidentially in regards to individual cases, I cannot provide any further details,” Anne Winsløv, the ministry’s deputy head of consular services, said. 
Al-Khawaja’s daughter Maryam told TV2 that as of Monday, her father was refusing all food and drink, with the exception of water. She said that he would resist all efforts to make him end the hunger strike.
“The difference between this time and last time is that this time he will refuse to leave the prison to go to the hospital or even the prison’s own clinic because last time he was taken to a military hospital, they drugged him and ended his hunger strike by force-feeding him,” Maryam Al-Khawaja said. 
Abdulhadi al-Khawaja lived in the Copenhagen area for 12 years, during which time he obtained Danish citizenship, before moving back to Bahrain in 2001 to lead resistance movements against the local government. 

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Dane gets three years for ‘insulting’ Bahrain’s king

Just days after her sister was sentenced to prison in absentia, Zainab al-Khawaja has now also been convicted of charges in Bahrain. Their father also sits in a Bahraini jail.

Dane gets three years for 'insulting' Bahrain's king
Zainab al-Khawaja and with her mother Khadija Sayed Habib Ebrahim Musawi. Photo: Amnesty International
A Bahrain court sentenced Danish-Bahraini dual citizen Zainab al-Khawaja to three years in prison for ripping up a picture of the country’s king, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Amnesty International has reported. 
The court found al-Khawaja guilty of “insulting” the king and in addition to her three-year prison sentence, she was also ordered to pay a 48,000 kroner fine. 
Earlier just this week, al-Khawaja’s sister Maryam was also sentenced to prison in Bahrain on charges she assaulted a police officer. Maryam al-Khawaja was sentenced in absentia and will face imprisonment if she attempts to return to Bahrain.
Zainab al-Khawaja’s sentence comes just one week after she gave birth, according to Amnesty International. 
Maryam al-Khawaja wrote on Twitter that her sister “will not be arrested right now, but [the] sentence can be carried out whenever”. 
Zainab al-Khawaja has previously been sentenced to four months in jail for the same offence of ripping up a photo of Bahrain’s king. She also sever nearly a year in prison before being released in February for charges including “destroying government property, insulting a policewoman, illegal gathering and rioting and inciting hatred against the regime,” according to Amnesty International. 
The human rights organisation has strongly condemned Bahrain’s “growing intolerance” and  “harsh methods of dealing with dissent”.
“They must immediately and unconditionally release Zainab and all others who are detained for peacefully expressing their views,” Said Boumedouha, the deputy director for Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme said in a statement
The al-Khawaja family have been vocal critics of the Bahraini regime. 
Maryam and Zainab’s father, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, has been held in a Bahraini prison since 2011, serving a life sentence for demonstrating against the government and organising protests during the Arab Spring uprisings. In the spring of 2012, al-Khawaja held a 110-day hunger strike that sparked what Denmark’s then Foreign Minister, Villy Søvndal, called the “largest Danish consular effort ever” to obtain his release. 
Earlier this year, he staged another short-lived hunger strike that was called off over health concerns
Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and his daughters are dual citizens of Bahrain and Denmark.