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Bahrain says activist on hunger strike 'is 'fine'

From Mohammed Jamjoom, CNN
updated 12:30 PM EDT, Mon April 9, 2012
Bahraini Shiite demonstrators hold posters of jailed activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja during a protest Friday.
Bahraini Shiite demonstrators hold posters of jailed activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja during a protest Friday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Abdulhadi al-Khawaja's life "is not in danger," says Information Affairs Authority
  • The activist's daughter says she has not been able to contact him since Saturday
  • She was arrested after trying to contact her father at a military hospital
  • Al-Khawaja, arrested a year ago, is on the 61st day of a hunger strike

(CNN) -- Bahrain's Information Affairs Authority dismissed concerns about the health of jailed activist Abudlhadi al-Khawaja, for whom Monday marked the 61st day of a hunger strike and two days since his family last heard from him.

"He's fine," IAA's Fahad Binali told CNN. "His life is not in danger."

Mohammed al-Jeshi, the lawyer for Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, had said his family feared he may have died.

The daughter of the human rights activist had said Sunday that her father was having trouble breathing and was being harassed by hospital staff and security guards.

Zainab al-Khawaja told CNN she had spoken with him Saturday night.

"There were very long pauses," she said. "He was trying to breathe between every word."

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is protesting the life sentence he received for his role in anti-government demonstrations that continue to roil his country. Sunday marked a year since his arrest.

Zainab al-Khawaja said her father said he told guards that he would live with pride whether it was in or out of prison.

"His tone and the way he was speaking was like he was saying goodbye," she said. "We're not sure if we'll ever see him again."

She said she had gone Saturday to the military hospital where her father was being held.

She said she had done gone Thursday night to the Interior Ministry, where her father was previously being held, and was arrested for allegedly assaulting a public officer. She was later released.

Government spokesman Abdul-Aziz al-Khalifa said Sunday that the daughter was detained after she started "shouting her head off" and "being rude." She was charged with "disturbing the peace in a general hospital and insulting members of the security force here and all the guards in the hospital," he said.

He said he had full faith in the staff and that her story is an "exaggeration."

Bahraini authorities said Sunday they would not hand over Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja to Denmark as requested. Al-Khawaja had lived once in Denmark and holds Danish citizenship.

Bahrain's Supreme Judiciary Council said he did not meet the conditions stipulated in its criminal procedures law to hand over the accused to foreign countries, the Bahrain News Agency reported.

Al-Khalifa said Saturday that Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was in stable condition and receiving "the utmost care that is available."

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights -- a group Abdulhadi al-Khawaja founded -- said he had recently threatened to his guards that he would stop drinking water, in addition to continuing his hunger strike, unless his treatment improved.

Records showed that al-Khawaja had lost about 10 kilograms (22 pounds) and had a low hemoglobin level, though not critically low, the government said last week. He was also reportedly taking fluids, mineral supplements, glucose and juice on a daily basis.

Al-Khawaja was arrested in April 2011 for his role in anti-government protests that began a month earlier with demands for political reform and greater freedoms in the Sunni-ruled, Shiite-majority nation.

Opposition groups say more than 1,000 people -- most of them Shiites -- were detained for allegedly taking part.

In June, Bahrain found Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and seven other Shiite opposition activists guilty of plotting to overthrow the country's Sunni royal family.

In November, an independent inquiry commissioned by the king confirmed that security forces had tortured and used excessive force against civilians arrested during the crackdown and that thousands of workers were fired for allegedly participating in the protests.

Since then, demonstrators and police have continued to clash.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja can appeal his life sentence during a hearing April 23, the government said.

CNN's Ash Gallagher and Samira Said contributed to this report.

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