Jailed activist leader Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is ready to lose his life, his wife said yesterday – the 82nd day of his hunger strike. "He can't live in a cage," Khadija al-Moussawi told the BBC. She rejected the regime's plans to retry him and 20 other activists in civilian courts as a sham, and said her husband was being force-fed in his hospital bed. He has lost 25% of his body weight.
'Just buying time'
Khawaja, the leading face of Bahrain's democracy movement, was sentenced to life imprisonment by a military tribunal last summer for plotting against the state. His "crime" was merely organising peaceful protests for greater freedom in the Gulf kingdom. He began his hunger strike nearly three months ago, and last week was secretly moved to hospital.
Bahrain's regime is framing its decision to hold a retrial of Khawaja and other activists as a humane concession but Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and others have questioned the offer's sincerity. They point out that the new trials would use the same evidence, based on interrogations by military prosecutors – some of which involved torture, according to the activists' families. "Nothing will change – it's the same system. They're just buying time," Moussawi said.
Last weekend, HRW issued a new report claiming that the beating and torture of detained protesters continues, despite the regime's promises.
Vote the foreign minister down
Meanwhile an internet battle has begun over an award-winning al-Jazeera film, "Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark". The documentary, which deals with Bahrain's thwarted democratic spring and Saudi Arabia's role in its brutal suppression, is shortlisted for a Bafta (Britain's equivalent of an Oscar). Radio Times magazine has been running a poll on its website, asking the public to vote for their favourite contender. Over the weekend, Bahrain's foreign minister urged his 80,000 followers on Twitter to vote against the film.
Take action: Let's give the Bahraini government something to think about – vote for "Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark" as best current affairs film.