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Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, famed Bahrani activist and former president and co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, ended his 110 day hunger strike 28 May 2012. According to al-Khawaja’s wife, the activist ended his protest after he was force fed by doctors; al-Khawaja also believes that the hunger strike has finally begun to draw enough attention to the rights violations in Bahrain. Friends and colleagues of al-Khawaja also called for him to end his hunger strike.
Al-Khawaja was sentenced to life in prison in June 2011 with at least eight other activists. Twenty in total were tried by military tribunal as well; seven were tried in absentia. These activists, most of whom are Shia Muslims, were charged with trying to overthrow the Sunni royal family. Since the military ruling the highest court in Bahrain, the Court of Cassation, has said that the case must be heard by the civilian Court of Appeal and threw out the decision from the tribunal; however, al-Khawaja remains in prison at least until the end of the trial.
For a short time in April many activists around the world and family members of al-Khawaja worried that he had been killed or died in prison. The activist went missing and neither his wife nor his lawyer were allowed access to see him.
Nabeel Rajab, another famous Shia activist who was arrested for inciting protests via social networks, was released in late May. Rajab is the current president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and had expressed concern about al-Khawaja when he was being force fed.
Al-Khawaja’s daughter, Zainab al-Khawaja, was arrested 21 April 2012 after she was found sitting on a main road in a lone protest demanding the release of her father, the end to the government crackdown on protesters, and the cancellation of the Formula 1 races in Bahrain. She sentenced to one month in jail but was released for time served on remand. Zainab al-Khawaja was also forced to pay a fine of 200 dinar (US$530).
Al-Khawaja received political asylum in Denmark in 1992 after the Bahrani government began arresting and torturing those it suspected of trying to overthrow the government. While he was living Scandinavia, he and other Bahrani activist founded the Bahrain Human Rights Organization. Al-Khawaja returned to Bahrain in 1999 after several political reforms were passed and created the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. During the Arab Spring Revolutions of 2011, al-Khawaja was a leader of several non-violent, pro-democracy protests in Bahrain.