Bahrain

Denmark urges Bahrain to free political prisoners, including top rights activist Khawaja

Denmark has called on Bahrain to release all people arbitrarily detained in the tiny Persian Gulf kingdom, including prominent human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is also a Danish citizen and serving a life sentence for his influential role in the 2011 popular uprising against the Al Khalifah regime.

The Scandinavian country said that the 58-year-old former president and co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) has been subjected to various forms of mistreatment and is in dire need of medical treatment, Arabic-language Lualua television network reported.

The request by Denmark comes nearly a year after Bahrain refused entry to a Danish legislator and an Irish human rights activist after they cited their reason to be visiting Khawaja.

Lars Aslan Rasmussen and Brian Dooley arrived in Bahrain in early April 2018 in an attempt to visit jailed human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.

The two wrote on their visa application “To visit jailed human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja” as the purpose of their visit.

Dooley, a senior adviser to the Human Rights First, an NGO, and Rasmussen were photographed holding up Khawaja’s poster at Bahrain International Airport.

Dooley said in a series of Twitter posts that airport security officials informed him and Rasmussen that they were “security risks.”

Airport security also refused to hand over their passports back, and they had to wait in the airport for more than 15 hours, Dooley said, describing the situation as a “Kafkaesque scenario.”

“Bahrain needs to be constantly challenged about its torture, its targeting of human rights activists, its banning of the political opposition,” Dooley said at the time, adding, “Preventing members of parliament, human rights groups and journalists from entering the country shows how much the regime has to hide … Bahrain has become an out and out police state.”

Rasmussen also said at the time, “We came to show that al-Khawaja and the other human rights activists in prison are not forgotten, and to remind the Danish government that it should be pressing much harder for his release.”

Thousands of anti-regime protesters have held demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis ever since a popular uprising began in the country in mid-February 2011.

They are demanding that the Al Khalifah regime relinquish power and allow a just system representing all Bahrainis to be established. Manama has gone to great lengths to clamp down on any sign of dissent. On March 14, 2011, troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were deployed to assist Bahrain in its crackdown.

On March 5, 2017, Bahrain’s parliament approved the trial of civilians at military tribunals in a measure blasted by human rights campaigners as being tantamount to imposition of an undeclared martial law countrywide.

Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah ratified the constitutional amendment on April 3 that year.

-Denmark

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