DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The daughters of a prominent human rights activist jailed in Bahrain said he resumed a hunger strike Wednesday after being denied medical care and as the country’s crown prince visited the United States.
Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a dual Danish-Bahraini citizen, was jailed after taking part in the 2011 Arab Spring uprising in the tiny island nation in the Persian Gulf. He later was convicted of terrorism charges in a case that has been criticized internationally. His supporters say the 62-year-old has been tortured and is in ill health.
Zainab Al-Khawaja posted a video on X, formerly known as Twitter, in which she said her father had resumed his hunger strike after being denied a medical appointment to treat his glaucoma, which the family fears could result in blindness. They say he also suffers from a potentially fatal heart condition.
Bahrain’s prison authority denied that Al-Khawaja had been refused medical care and said his health is “stable with no serious concerns.”
All detainees in Bahrain get the same level of health care as members of the public, and their health is overseen by government hospitals, the agency said in a statement.
Al-Khawaja is among hundreds of prisoners at the Jaw Rehabilitation and Reform Center who launched a hunger strike on Aug. 7 to protest the conditions of their incarceration. The facility holds several prisoners identified by rights groups as dissidents who oppose the rule of the Al Khalifa family.
The prisoners suspended the strike on Tuesday after authorities said they would improve health care at the prison. Authorities also agreed to limit isolation, expand visitor rights and extend the hours of exposure to daylight, even as the government had downplayed the strike over the past month.
Al-Khawaja’s other daughter, Maryam, who shared the video, plans to risk her own arrest by visiting Bahrain this week with other human rights activists to press for her father’s release.
In Washington, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who is also Bahrain’s prime minister, met with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and they signed a security agreement to enhance cooperation on defense, technology, trade and other areas.
Later Wednesday, he met with national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who reaffirmed the U.S.’s commitment to Bahrain’s security and thanked the crown prince for Bahrain’s partnership, a White House statement said.
Bahrain, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, saw mass protests in 2011 supported by the Shiite majority against the Sunni monarchy. Authorities violently quashed the demonstrations with help from neighboring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two other U.S. allies.