Bahrain woman says on hunger strike over arrests

Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:46am GMT

MANAMA (Reuters) - The daughter of a prominent Bahraini activist says she is on hunger strike to protest the arrest of her father, husband and other relatives after martial law was declared to quell weeks of pro-democracy protests.

Zainab Alkhawaja wrote a letter addressed to U.S. President Barack Obama on her blog "Angry Arabiya" announcing the start of her hunger strike on Monday evening and urging him to call for the release of her family.

"I chose to write to you and not to my own government because the al-Khalifa regime has proven that they do not care about our rights, or our lives," she said.

"I demand the immediate release of my family members. My father: Abdulhadi Alkhawaja. My husband: Wafi Almajed. My brother-in-law: Hussein Ahmed. My uncle: Salah Alkhawaja."

It appeared to be the first time an activist has gone on hunger strike since the government cleared the streets of protesters last month.

Bahrain said on Monday it had released 86 people held under martial law while "legal measures" were being taken against other detainees. The government has not said how many it is holding but rights activists claim hundreds have been detained.

The United States, whose Fifth Fleet is stationed in the Gulf island kingdom, offered muted criticism of the government's crackdown and analysts say it refrained from pushing Bahrain to ease its security sweeps due to anxieties over interference from its rival Iran, just across the Gulf.

Bahrain's Sunni Muslim rulers quelled weeks of protests led by mostly Shi'ite demonstrators by spreading security forces throughout the capital and calling in troops from neighbouring Sunni-led Gulf Arab states, including oil giant Saudi Arabia.

The severity of the crackdown stunned Bahrain's Shi'ite majority, who say they have no ties to non-Arab Shi'ite power Iran. It also sparked criticism from Iran and Shi'ite groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.   Continued...

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