Photo source: montadayat.org
I wasn't able to attend the protest in support of Al-Khawaja that took place yesterday by the Bahrain Financial Harbour, but by the looks of it the turnout wasn't huge. Look at some photos here, or watch a video (wmv 4.5MB). Well, that's what you get at 10am on a Thursday morning. It was comforting however to see that the government did not interfere with this demonstration. This was the first demonstration held by The Committee in Support of Al-Khawaja since the car parade rally that the police broke up with tear gas a few weeks back. So that seems to confirm it: the government is only interfering with demonstrations that make use of vehicles, not all protests. It seems that they will let normal protests on foot go ahead without any trouble (unless of course our retard MPs decide to pass the proposed law to clamp down on demonstrations).
The final verdict on Al-Khawaja will be delivered on Sunday. I hope that the government is wise enough to release him. Thanks to the government's actions, Al-Khawaja has become a superstar. And from the looks of this video (wmv 4.8MB), Abdelrauf Al-Shayeb (another detainee) is also on his way to superstardom. The detainees have been on hunger strikes, and most of them have been in and out of hospital. If the government were to find Al-Khawaja guilty then it would have on its hands the first political prisoner since all were released during King Hamad's reforms in 2001. Asides from this being morally wrong (let's assume the government doesn't care about morality for argument's sake), it would surely hurt the Kingdom's image abroad, affecting business, and maybe even the ratification of US-Bahrain free trade agreement (it's unlikely but possible). Can the King afford risking all this at such a crucial time, merely to save the face of his uncle the Prime Minister? I hope not, but family ties go quite deep around here.
All I want is to be able to go back to studying the important poverty issue that sparked this whole drama.
Below is a report from the GDN on the condition of Al-Khawaja and the other detainees who went on hunger strike. Published in the GDN on 19-Nov-04.
Al Khawaja treated after fainting
By ABDULRAHMAN FAKHRI and MOHAMMED AL A'ALI
Abdul Hadi Al Khawaja was taken to the BDF Hospital for treatment last night after fainting in his prison cell.
He later spoke to his wife and pledged that once he was released from hospital he would continue his hunger strike until he appeared in court on Sunday, said Nabeel Rajab, president of the now dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.
Dr Abdul Jalil Al Segase of the committee for solidarity with Mr Al Khawaja said the former Bahrain Human Rights Centre executive director had been given intravenous fluids at the hospital. He began his hunger strike on Monday and stopped taking water on Tuesday.
Later, he was reported to have been returned to prison.
Thirteen people arrested during rallies held to call for the release of Al Khawaja ended their hunger strike earlier in the day following the appeal of the committee in support of the human rights activist and their families.
Almost half of the detainees have been receiving medical treatment at one point since two separate hunger strikes were staged last Thursday and Monday. All have been released, including Bahraini activist Abdulraouf Al Shayeb who was admitted to hospital after vomiting blood at the Khamis Police Station prison, said Nabeel Rajab, president of the new dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.
Mr Al Shayeb, who is the former president of the National Committee for the Support of Martyrs and Torture, has been on a hunger strike since Monday and was refusing water since Tuesday.
Committee members and relatives urged the detainees to at least start drinking water on Wednesday after their health started to deteriorate.
The detainees are accused of staging rallies and "resisting the authorities".
Thirteen other people arrested for taking part in the protests have since been released by the General Prosecutor's office following a review of their cases.
Meanwhile, Bahrain Human Rights Society members Mohammed Al Mutawa and Abdulredha Al Sayed visited nine of the detainees yesterday.
They all looked in better shape after giving up their hunger strike but threatened to resume it unless they appear before the General Prosecutor on Sunday and are released.
Mr Al Mutawa and Mr Al Sayed visited the detainees in Budaiya, Khamia and Riffa police stations and recorded their grievances as did prosecutor Ahmed Bucheeri.