April 18, 2012

King of Bahrain
His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Issa Al-Khalifa
Office of His Majesty the King
P.O.Box 555
Rifa’a Palace
Kingdom of Bahrain
Fax: +973 176 64 587

Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs
Sheikh Khalid bin Ali Al-Khalifa
Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs
P.O. Box 450
Kingdom of Bahrain
Fax: +973 175 31 284

Minister of Human Rights and Social Development, Acting Minister of Health
Dr. Fatima al-Balushi
Ministry of Human Rights and Development
Kingdom of Bahrain

Your Excellencies,

On behalf of the 3,000 members of PEN American Center, an international organization of writers dedicated to protecting freedom of expression wherever it is threatened, we are writing to express our concern for the well-being of writer and human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.

According to our information, on April 18, 2012, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja entered the 65th day of his hunger strike, which began February 8, 2012, in protest against his detention and ill-treatment. During an April 14 phone call to his family, he reported that he was being ill-treated at the Bahrain Defense Force Hospital and had requested a transfer back to Jaw Prison. On April 16, after meeting with the Danish ambassador to Bahrain, he agreed to start taking intravenous and other fluids. His health has severely deteriorated and he was at risk of going into a coma. Al-Khawaja, who, along with 13 other activists, will learn the outcome of an appeal hearing currently before the Court of Cassation, has pledged to continue his strike until “freedom or death.”

Al-Khawaja, a former protection coordinator for the Irish human rights NGO Front Line Defenders, was arrested in April 2011 and accused of being one of the leaders of anti-government protests, which began on February 14, 2011. He was tortured in custody and sentenced to life imprisonment by a military court in a grossly unfair trial on June 22, 2011. Thirteen other activists and human rights defenders were sentenced along with him and jailed, while seven others were sentenced in absentia.

PEN American Center is seriously concerned for the well-being of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is currently serving a life sentence in violation of his right to free expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Bahrain is a signatory. We therefore urge the authorities to allow Al-Khawaja immediate access to necessary medical attention and to investigate allegations of torture. We call for Al-Khawaja’s immediate and unconditional release and the release of all those arrested and charged in Bahrain under the State of Emergency law that was lifted June 3, 2011, and for the Bahraini authorities to implement the recommendations made by the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry on June 29, 2011.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.

Hannah Pakula
Chair, Freedom to Write Committee

Larry Siems
Director, Freedom to Write and International Programs

CC: H.E. Houda Ezra Ebrahim Nonoo
Ambassador of the Kingdom of Bahrain to the U.S.
Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain
3502 International Drive NW
Washington, DC 20008
Fax: (202) 362-2192

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