Leading Bahraini dissident Khawaja ends hunger strike

Mon May 28, 2012 7:02pm GMT

By Rania El Gamal

DUBAI (Reuters) - Jailed Bahraini activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja ended a more than three-month-long hunger strike on Monday after what he described as his success in drawing attention to the issue of imprisoned activists, his wife and lawyer said.

Bahrain, a U.S. ally and home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, has been in turmoil since pro-democracy protests led by its majority Shi'ites erupted last year after revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.

Khawaja, who is also a Danish citizen, was a leading figure in the uprising and has become a focal point of almost daily anti-government protests in the past months as his health deteriorated.

Bahrain's Shi'ites complain they have long been marginalised in political and economic life, which the government denies. But there has been no progress on the main opposition demand for a parliament with full powers to legislate and form governments.

The country's rulers have rejected opposition calls for an elected government and protests and clashes with police continue. Authorities have dubbed the opposition Iranian lackeys because most of them are Shi'ites, like most people in Iran.

A vocal rights activist, Khawaja received a life term for charges including attempting to topple the monarchy. An appeals court ordered a retrial last month at a civilian court. He went on hunger strike on February 9.

"He has stopped his hunger strike," Khadija Almousawi, Khawaja's wife, told Reuters by telephone from Manama, after she received a call from Khawaja on Monday evening.

Khawaja decided to end his hunger strike "after succeeding in shedding light on the case of the detainees in Bahraini prisons," a statement carried by Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) quoted Khawaja as saying.   Continued...

A protester holds a picture of Bahraini human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja in front of riot police during an anti-government rally demanding his release, in Manama in this April 18, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/Files
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