April 6, 2012.
As the government in Manama prepares to welcome back Formula One, activists say human rights abuses continue
Bahrain's best known human rights activist, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is on the 57th day of a hunger strike, could die in jail at any moment say those who have seen him recently.
"His heart could stop at any time or he could slip into a coma," said his daughter Maryam. Mr al-Khawaja, 51, who was sentenced to life in jail last year for an alleged plot to overthrow the Bahraini monarchy, says he will continue his hunger strike until he is freed or he dies.
His death is likely to ignite violence in Bahrain where members of the majority Shia community have protested against his imprisonment. It would also discredit the attempt by the Bahraini government to persuade the international community it is seriously pursuing legal and constitutional reforms.
The detention of Mr al-Khawaja, has lead to calls for the cancellation of the Bahrain Formula One race later this month. The government has been publicising the race as a sign that Bahrainis are united and the situation on the island Kingdom has returned to normal. "They are using it as a celebration that we are one nation while people are being killed weekly," says Zaynab, another daughter of Mr al-Khawaja.
Mary Lawlor of the human rights group Front Line Defenders, who led a team on a three-day visit to Bahrain this week, said: "I don't see how the Formula One can go ahead if Abdulhadi al-Khawaja dies in jail." She said she had asked him to end his fast, but he refused. "He has lost 25 per cent of his body-weight and he was already a thin man," she said.
Ms Lawlor says the Bahraini government may not realise the seriousness of his condition. Other sources say he cannot sit up in bed in the al-Qalaa prison prison where he has been transferred.
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