Bahrain refuses to send hunger striker to Denmark

A Bahraini Shiite demonstrator holds a poster of jailed activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja as another makes the victory sign during a protest calling for his release in the village of Jidhafs, west of Manama, on April 6, 2012. (AFP)

Bahrain on Sunday turned down a request to transfer to Denmark a jailed Shiite activist who has been on hunger strike for two months and also holds Danish nationality, state news agency BNA reported.

“The handover of accused and convicted persons to foreign countries takes place under specific conditions ... This does not apply in Abdulhadi al-Khawaja’s case,” a Supreme Judiciary Council official said, quoted by BNA.

The statement did not give any further details.

Khawaja, who was condemned with other opposition activists to life in jail over an alleged plot to topple the Sunni monarchy during a month-long protest a year ago, began his hunger strike on the night of February 8-9.

BNA reported on Saturday that Bahrain was examining a request to transfer him to Denmark.

“Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad Al-Khalifa received a written letter from Danish Foreign Minister Villy Soevndal asking Abdulhadi al-Khawaja be transferred to Denmark since he holds Danish citizenship,” it said.

The request was referred to the head of the Supreme Judicial Council.

Front Line Defenders, a Dublin-based non-governmental organization, warned Tuesday after a visit to Manama that Khawaja, who had shed 25 percent of his body weight, could die in jail and was “at risk of organ failure.”

Bahraini authorities said he had lost some 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and was showing signs of low hemoglobin, “although not at a critical level, since prior to going on the strike.”

Khawaja was “taking fluids, mineral supplements, glucose and juice on a daily basis.”

Bahrain’s largest opposition movement al-Wefaq urged the international community to intervene and press for his release, in a statement on Friday as hundreds of people demonstrated in the kingdom demanding his release.

Tensions have been running high in Bahrain where an independent inquiry said in November that 35 people were killed in Shiite-led unrest between mid-February and mid-March 2011.

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