In Bahrain, a renowned dissident has decided to end his hunger strike after 110 days. A prominent human rights activist has also been released on bail after being arrested for posting anti-government tweets.
One of Bahrain's most prominent opposition activists announced on Monday that he would end his months-long hunger strike, saying that he had successfully highlighted the plight of political prisoners in the Gulf island state.
Shiite opposition figure Abdulhadi al-Khawaja began his 110-day hunger strike on February 8, after being sentenced by a military court to life in prison on charges of trying to topple the country's Sunni monarchy. Seven other activists were also sentenced to life in prison on similar charges.
They are part of a 23 member group whose cases are currently being re-examined by civilian courts. Al-Khawaja appeared last week in court using a wheelchair. He has been receiving intravenous fluids and drinking juice occasionally.
The activist's lawyer, Mohammed al-Jishi, said his client decided to end his hunger strike even though he has not been released from prison. Al-Jishi said the hunger strike had successfully brought international attention to the detention of opposition activists and limits on freedom of expression in Bahrain.
"The Bahraini cause has been raised clearly and comprehensively around the world," al-Jishi said.
Denmark had offered to take custody of al-Khawaja, who holds duel Bahraini-Danish citizenship. The government of Bahrain rejected the overture.
Human rights activist free on bail
The president of the Bahrain Human Rights Center, Nabeel Rajab, was released on bail on Monday more than three weeks after his arrest on May 5. Rajab faces charges of using the microblog website twitter to insult the Bahraini authorities and organize demonstrations.
"I was arrested because of my rights activities," said Rajab, vowing that he would continue to "defend the oppressed."
The US-based group Human Rights Watch had called on Bahrain earlier this month to drop all charges against Rajab, saying his arrest was an attempt to "silence one of the Bahraini government's most prominent critics."
Inspired by popular uprisings in north Africa, Bahrain's Shiite majority rose up against the Sunni Al-Khalifa monarchy in March 2011 to demand greater political rights and freedoms. Protests have been a near daily occurrence in the Gulf island kingdom since then. Some 60 people have died in the subsequent government crackdown, according to Amnesty International.
Bahraini King Hamad agreed to let an international commission probe the government's response to the uprising. The commission found that security forces had used excessive force and tortured detainees.
Hamad has promised reforms, including in the security forces. Some policeman have been tried on charges of torture.
slk/pfd (AP, AFP)