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For Immediate Release

Retrial Ordered for 21 Defendants in Bahrain Including Hunger Striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja

PHR concerned about reported force feeding of al-Khawaja

Cambridge, Mass. - 04/30/2012

Following news reports that leading Bahraini opposition activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and 20 other activists will be retried in civil court, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) called today for a fair and open trial for all those who have been charged by the court.

Of the 20 activists, 13 are still being detained, while 7 were tried in absentia.

“This is only a positive step if it is a genuine retrial, and not an appeal of a flawed trial where confessions based on torture were admitted as evidence,” said Richard Sollom, Deputy Director at PHR. “We have seen these hollow promises before, when Bahraini medics were ordered to be given a retrial, but instead merely received a chance to appeal their sentences. If this ruling is legitimate, it must be fully enforced,” said Richard Sollom.

Al-Khawaja was sentenced to life in prison last June by a military court and has since led an 82-day hunger strike protesting his imprisonment and torture. Recent reports have indicated that al-Khawaja is being force fed, which amounts to torture. 

“Force feeding is a flagrant violation of a patient’s medical autonomy and when conducted by a physician against the patient’s will, it is torture, according to the World Medical Association,” said Sollom. “This weak and vulnerable prisoner of conscious, who’s reportedly being forcibly fed, should be released from prison and given immediate access to independent medical care while he awaits retrial.”

PHR renews its calls for al-Khwawaja’s life sentence to be expunged and his immediate and unconditional release.  PHR also calls for the release of the other 13 opposition activists, currently in detention, who are scheduled to be retried before the court of appeals.

PHR remains extremely concerned about the more than 400 current political detainees in Bahrain.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to stop mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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