Lawyer: Bahraini activist to end hunger strike
MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — Bahraini hunger striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja plans to end his strike Monday, 110 days after he began refusing food, according to his lawyer.
Attorney Mohamed al-Jishi said that al-Khawaja decided to begin eating again because his strike succeeded in bringing attention to the cause of Bahraini protesters agitating for political change. The 51-year-old activist remains in prison.
"The Bahraini cause has been raised clearly and comprehensively around the world," al-Jishi said in explaining his client's decision. He said al-Khawaja sought to highlight the detention of what he calls political prisoners and limits on freedom of expression in the tiny Gulf nation.
Al-Khawaja began his hunger strike on February 8.
Bahrain's majority Shiites, emboldened by Arab Spring protests elsewhere, launched an uprising more than 15 months ago seeking to limit the wide-ranging powers of the ruling Sunni dynasty. At least 50 people have been killed in the unrest in the strategic island nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
Bahrain's monarchy has made concessions, but not enough to satisfy demands of protesters. Clashes between police and protesters happen nearly every day — with al-Khawaja emerging recently as a powerful rallying point for demonstrators.
Bahrain rejected Denmark's request in March to take custody of al-Khawaja, who is also a Danish citizen.
Al-Khawaja appeared at a court hearing using a wheelchair last week. He has been receiving fluids intravenously and drinking juice occasionally but has so far not begun eating, his lawyer said.
He and seven other activists were sentenced to life in prison last year by a military-run court as part of government crackdowns on the protests. They are among a 21-member group whose cases are being re-examined by a civilian court. The next hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
Another prominent Bahraini rights activist, Nabeel Rajab, was released on bail Monday, more than three weeks after his arrest on charges linked to anti-government protests in the kingdom.
Rajab, president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was arrested May 5 and charged with using social media to insult Bahraini authorities and encourage demonstrations. His arrest brought an outcry from international rights groups and others.
Al-Jishi, who also represents Rajab, said his next trial date is June 17.