Last updated: 8 April, 2012

Bahrain refuses to send hunger striker to Denmark

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.

“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 state news agency BNA.

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 organisation, warned that Khawaja, who had shed 25 percent of his body weight, could now die in jail in the runup to the Bahrain Grand Prix.

“They are choosing to ignore the shadow cast over the whole event by the critical condition of human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja” said Front Line Defenders executive director Mary Lawlor in a statement.

“The countdown has started to the celebrations linked to the Formula 1 Grand Prix – sadly a different countdown is under way for Abdulhadi whose life is in imminent danger.”

Bahrain’s largest opposition movement Al-Wefaq also condemned the decision not to allow the detainee to be transferred to Denmark, saying it amounted to having “signed his death” sentence.

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.

Former world champion Damon Hill has demanded a rethink over the contentious Bahrain Grand Prix which is due to take place later this month despite ongoing anti-government protests in the troubled Gulf state.

Last year’s event was cancelled because of the unrest.