— Maryam Alkhawaja (@MARYAMALKHAWAJA) August 24, 2014
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.