Maryam and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja. Photo: Scanpix
The Danish-Bahraini activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has called off his hunger strike after a month, the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) reported.
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.
According to the GCHR, al-Khawaja called off his hunger strike out of health concerns for other prisoners who had joined him in his protests.
The GCHR, which al-Khawaja founded, had previously urged the dual citizen of Denmark and Bahrain to call off the strike, especially following reports that his health had deteriorated significantly.
“We well know your willingness to sacrifice your life for the freedom of the people of Bahrain, as you are about to enter the day 24 of your hunger strike where your life is at grave risk,” the GCHR wrote to al-Khawaja in a joint letter with the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.
Al-Khawaja replied by writing: “As the world can see we are in a situation where our only choice to demand rights and freedoms is by risking our lives.”
Although he has called off his current hunger strike, al-Khawaja wrote that “this will not be the last hunger strike as long as the arbitrary detention continues.”
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.
Denmark still continues to lobby for al-Khawaja's release. At an assembly of the UN's Human Rights Committee in Geneva on September 16th, the Danish ambassador to the UN, Carsten Staur, criticised the Bahraini government for its treatment of al-Khawaja and one of his daughters, Maryam.
"Denmark is still deeply concerned about the imprisonment of human rights activists in Bahrain, including the Danish citizen Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, whose health is quickly deteriorating. We are also worried about the latest jailing of the Danish human rights activist Mayram al-Khawaja," Stuar said, according to Jyllands-Posten.
Jyllands-Posten reports that Norway and Ireland also criticised Bahrain's imprisonment of activists in front of the Human Rights Committee.
Maryam al-Khawaja was recently held by the Bahraini authorities for 19 days. Maryam, like her father a dual citizen of Denmark and Bahrain, is charged with attacking a police officer in a Bahraini airport after arriving from Denmark to visit her father in prison. She was released on September 20th but is due before a Bahrain court at the end of the month.