Last updated: 18 April, 2012

Iraq’s Sadr calls for Bahrain activist’s release

Anti-US Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has called for the release of jailed Bahraini activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who has been on hunger strike for more than two months.

“I demand his immediate release,” Sadr said in a statement released by his office in Najaf and obtained by AFP on Wednesday. It was unclear when the cleric made the statement.

“Detaining the opposition is rejected and has not and will not bend our will or theirs,” he said, adding: “May God bless the detainees in Bahrain’s unjust prisons.”

Khawaja, a Bahraini Shiite who also holds Danish nationality, has been on a hunger strike since the night of February 8-9 to demand his release from prison, where he is serving a life sentence.

Copenhagen has asked Bahrain to allow Khawaja to leave for Denmark but Bahrain’s official news agency BNA reported that Manama has rejected the request.

Khawaja was sentenced with other opposition figures on charges of conspiring to overthrow the ruling Sunni monarchy of Bahrain during last year’s protests in the Shiite-majority state, which the government crushed in a brutal crackdown with backing from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Sadr, known for his strong anti-US stance, has previously angered Bahraini authorities with his remarks on the situation there.

Bahrain’s foreign ministry summoned Iraq’s envoy to the Gulf kingdom in January over what it charged were provocative comments made by Iraqi leaders, specifically Sadr.