Daughter of Danish-Bahraini rights activist offers to take his place in prison
The Guardia: Human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja’s health has suffered so much inside a Bahraini prison that his daughter Maryam has offered to trade places with him. She fears that without urgent action, her father will slowly die behind bars without being able to see his family.
“I don’t know how much longer my dad has. I spend every day dreading each time the phone rings, as it might be someone calling me to let me know my dad is no longer around,” said Maryam. “I know he has serious health issues and the authorities are using [lack of] access to proper treatment as a method of punishment. I don’t want to wait around for my dad to be released to us in a coffin. I can’t do that.” She added: “The central issue is that my father shouldn’t be in prison to begin with.” Khawaja is one of Bahrain’s most prominent human rights campaigners. He has a decades-long history of activism, and was arrested in the dead of night at his family home in April 2011 for his involvement in pro-democracy protests that swept the kingdom. Two months later, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. Twelve years into his sentence, his family say the Danish-Bahraini dual national is being denied crucial medical treatment as punishment for his status as a human rights defender, raising the risk that Khawaja could die behind bars without urgent intervention from the Danish authorities.
He was convicted of terrorism and attempting to overthrow the government, charges that were condemned as politicised by rights groups. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary detention declared that the sentence was directly linked to Khawaja’s desire to freely express his political beliefs and participate in protests, despite the Bahraini authorities’ ruling that anti-government protests were illegal. A spokesperson for the Bahraini government, when asked about Khawaja’s case, said that “freedom of expression and opinion is a constitutional right and no one is detained because of their political views or activism.