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Bahrain: jailed human rights defender at risk of going blind after denial of medical care

Daughter of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja believes her father is being deliberately punished after chanting pro-Palestinian slogans in a prison yard last month

Prominent activist has been wrongfully imprisoned for past 11 years

‘This is the latest show of cruelty by the Bahraini authorities who have a track record of medical neglect of prisoners’ - Lynn Maalouf

Responding to reports that the prominent Bahraini human rights defender, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja - wrongfully imprisoned for the past 11 years - is being denied medical care and is at risk of going blind, Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, said:

“We are very concerned about the health of Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja who, according to his daughter, is being denied medical treatment for suspected glaucoma, which could lead to blindness as a result of the injuries he sustained back in 2011 when he was subjected to torture.

“This is the latest show of cruelty by the Bahraini authorities who have a track record of medical neglect of prisoners.

“Healthcare in Bahrain’s prison system is marred by regular instances of denial of medical care, delay and the arbitrary exercise of authority, which in specific cases rise to the level of intentional ill-treatment.

“We call on the authorities to immediately ensure he receives the medical treatment and care he needs, and remind them that medical negligence could amount to a violation of the right to health.”

Punished for chanting pro-Palestinian slogans

On 16 February this year, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja stood in the prison yard of Jaw prison and chanted slogans in solidarity with Palestinians at the time of Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett’s visit to Bahrain. His daughter Maryam Al-Khawaja believes his medical treatment was stopped in retaliation for this incident.

His daughter also reported that on 16 January, he was taken to a hospital appointment and made to sit in a car for three hours, and then brought back to prison without having seen a doctor. He has not been given access to doctors since.

Al-Khawaja is among a group of opposition leaders and activists who were arrested in the spring of 2011 for taking part in peaceful human rights and pro-democracy protests. His arrest at the hands of the security forces was violent, resulting in a broken jaw. He was subjected to additional physical, psychological and sexual torture in detention. Eleven years later he suffers from chronic pain and requires surgery. Despite repeated requests, his medical records have not been shared with his family, and the authorities claim the records have “gone missing”.

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