Skip to main content

Bahrain court orders new trial of activist on hunger strike

By Mohammed Jamjoom and Saad Abedine, CNN
updated 10:50 AM EDT, Mon April 30, 2012
Bahraini demonstrators hold posters of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja during a protest calling for his release in on April 6, 2012.
Bahraini demonstrators hold posters of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja during a protest calling for his release in on April 6, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Abdulhadi al-Khawaja's wife says a retrial would be "cruel"
  • The Bahraini activist has been on hunger strike for two months
  • His daughter says he and other activists should be freed immediately
  • Al-Khawaja is among eight Shiite activists given life sentences after protests

(CNN) -- A court in Bahrain has quashed the life sentence of a prominent activist who has been on a hunger strike, sending his case to the Supreme Court, along with 20 others, the country's official news agency reported Monday.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has been on hunger strike for more than two months, protesting his sentence.

His wife said Monday she was "very disappointed" by the ruling, predicting that nothing would change.

"This is not positive. Nothing will change. The government is just buying time," Khadija Almousawi said.

"It's very obvious this decision is not for the sake of the prisoners but for the sake of the government to show it is doing something positive. A retrial is cruel for them. It means they have to go through that agony again," she said.

Al-Khawaja's daughter, meanwhile, took to Twitter to say he should be set free.

"All prisoners of conscience should be released immediately without these unfair trials used as an excuse to prolong detention," Maryam al-Khawaja said.

The court ruling does not mean the 21 defendants will be set free, Bahrain's state news agency BNA reported.

ITN reporter kicked out of Bahrain
Bahrain's Grand Prix finishes
Tensions grow in Bahrain
Bahrain won't transfer hunger-striker

Instead, they will get a new trial at the Supreme Court of Appeal "as if it was a trial for the first time," the agency said.

Earlier this month opposition groups in Bahrain and politicians around the world called for officials to cancel a Formula 1 motor race there as violent clashes continued between activists and authorities.

The Bahrain Grand Prix continued as scheduled, but protesters used the international spotlight on the race to call for the release of al-Khawaja.

On Sunday, Bahrain's Information Ministry denied that it was force-feeding al-Khawaja, saying in a statement that the prisoner gave consent for doctors to insert a nasogastric tube for nutrition after his blood sugar dropped.

He was arrested last April for his role in anti-government demonstrations in his country as the Arab Spring swept across the region.

He and the 20 other opposition activists were found guilty in June 2011 of plotting to overthrow the strategically important country's Sunni royal family. Eight were given life sentences

Human Rights Watch on Sunday accused police in Bahrain of regularly resorting to beating anti-government protesters, despite officials' pledges to stop such practices.

Interviews revealed at least five instances in the past month in which police severely beat detainees -- some of whom were minors, Human Rights Watch said in a report issued after representatives from the group finished a five-day visit to the island nation.

A Bahraini government spokesman denied that allegation and others made by the group.

"The allegations are absurd, and unfortunately, we ask for human rights organizations not to rely on unreliable sources," said government spokesman Abdul-Aziz bin Mubarak Al Khalifa.

Demonstrations in Bahrain failed to gain the traction of other Arab Spring uprisings after a crackdown by authorities in the island state, backed by troops from nearby Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

In November of last year, Bahrain's Independent Commission of Inquiry issued a report critical of authorities' reactions to the protests, which began in February 2011, spurred by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt.

The small island kingdom plays a key strategic role in the Middle East, and is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.

CNN's Samira Said contributed to this report

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Bahrain
updated 12:34 PM EDT, Fri April 20, 2012
What are the issues around the controversy over the Bahrain grand prix, and how are the sport and its fans reacting?
updated 1:09 PM EDT, Fri April 20, 2012
Motorsport journalist Ed Foster believes F1 chiefs are repeating past mistakes by going ahead with the race in Bahrain.
updated 12:36 PM EDT, Thu April 19, 2012
Two members of Force India's Formula One team have left Bahrain after a petrol bomb was thrown at one of the marque's cars during an anti-government protest.
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Wed April 18, 2012
Nearly 60 Bahraini activists turned out Wednesday in downtown Manama calling for the release of hunger striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.
updated 12:46 PM EDT, Thu April 19, 2012
CNN's Fred Pleitgen rides along with Bahrain's police as they try to contain protests before the Formula One Grand Prix.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed April 18, 2012
Bahrain Grand Prix bosses have made a "calculated decision" to go ahead with the controversial race, claiming civil rights protests have nothing to do with the event.
updated 7:22 AM EDT, Tue April 17, 2012
Human rights reforms in Bahrain are inadequate, according to a report from Amnesty International.
updated 9:57 AM EDT, Sat April 14, 2012
Motorsport's governing body has ended uncertainty over the Bahrain Grand Prix by issuing a statement confirming that the F1 race will go ahead.
updated 10:03 AM EDT, Fri April 13, 2012
Should sport and politics mix? Bernie Ecclestone has told CNN that they should not -- and that is why he is happy for Bahrain to host a Formula One race despite protests from human rights groups.
updated 6:57 AM EDT, Fri April 13, 2012
Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher has dismissed security fears ahead of next week's Bahrain Grand Prix.
updated 3:19 PM EDT, Thu April 12, 2012
Bahrain Grand Prix organizers insist that the Gulf kingdom's Formula One race will go ahead despite mounting pressure for it to be scrapped.
updated 6:29 PM EDT, Wed April 11, 2012
Formula One teams, including world champions Red Bull, tell CNN they will not unilaterally pull out of the Bahrain Grand Prix.
updated 1:42 PM EDT, Tue April 10, 2012
A global human rights organization has called on Bahraini authorities to release a jailed activist who's in poor health after a more than two-month hunger strike.
ADVERTISEMENT