MANAMA, Bahrain (AP) — The wife of a jailed Bahraini hunger striker was granted her first visit in two weeks Sunday, then accused authorities of using feeding tubes and other life-saving measures on her husband against his will. Bahrain denied that.
In recent weeks, the case of rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has became a powerful rallying point for Bahrain’s uprising by the Gulf kingdom’s majority Shiites against the island’s Western-allied Sunni rulers.
The meeting in a hospital prison ward followed a flurry of speculation about the health of al-Khawaja, who began the hunger strike Feb. 8.
Bahraini officials repeatedly described al-Khawaja’s health as good. His wife, Khadija al-Musawi, had not seen him since mid-April and feared he was in sharply declining health.
Al-Musawi was granted a one-hour meeting with her husband, and other relatives visited over the next two hours. She described his condition as weak but said he was in good spirits.
She claimed, however, that doctors forcibly hooked up feeding tubes and IVs on the 51-year-old al-Khawaja in recent days, presumably as his health worsened and officials worried about the fallout from his possible death. He had no feeding devices during Sunday’s visits, she said.
“Abdulhadi never stopped his hunger strike but was force fed,” she said.
In a statement, the prison hospital said al-Khawaja agreed to the life-saving measures. “His doctors asked for and received his consent,” the statement said.
Al-Khawaja and seven other opposition figures were sentenced to life in prison last year as part of crackdowns against the Arab Spring-inspired uprising that seeks to give Shiites a greater voice in the affairs of the strategic island nation, which is home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.
Bahrain’s leader say they have made critical reforms, but they fall short of opposition demands for a direct role in key political and security decisions.
At least 50 people have been killed in unrest since February 2011.
A hearing on the appeals of the life sentences and other charges is scheduled for Monday.
Earlier this month, Bahrain rejected a request by Denmark to take custody of al-Khawaja, who is also a Danish citizen.
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