Human Rights Watch has called on the Bahraini regime to release 13 dissidents serving long prison terms in the Persian Gulf state.
“These men are in jail only because they vigorously called for democratic reforms, an unfair detention that prompted Abdulhadi al-Khawaja to begin his hunger strike,” said Joe Stork, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division.
Dozens of Bahraini prisoners have been on hunger strike since late August against their detention.
In 2011, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was jailed for life on charges of plotting to overthrow the regime.
The international rights group has also asked other countries to increase pressure against Manama to free the anti-government activists.
“Countries that say they support human rights and democratic reforms in Bahrain have a responsibility to speak up now,” Stork added.
Meanwhile, the country’s main opposition party, the al-Wefaq National Islamic Society says the government is fully responsible for the safety and well-being of prisoners on hunger strike.
Since mid-February 2011, thousands of pro-democracy protesters have held numerous demonstrations in the streets of Bahrain, calling for the Al Khalifa royal family to relinquish power.
On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates invaded the country to assist the Bahraini government in its crackdown on peaceful protesters.
According to local sources, scores of people have been killed.