Bahrain hunger striker's fate concerns wife

The wife of detained Bahraini activist and hunger striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja said on Thursday she is being denied the right to call or visit the prominent Shia dissident.

"They say he is in good health, but if that's true, then why won't they let me speak to him, why won't they let me see him," asked Khadija Khawaja.

Speaking to AFP, she said the authorities had also barred her from visiting her daughter, Zeinab, who was jailed on Saturday after taking part in an anti-government sit-in.

The Gulf state's authorities were unreachable for comment on Thursday, but the interior ministry said on Twitter that Khawaja was in good health.

"Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is in good health despite rumors. He is in hospital receiving full medical care," said the message posted late Wednesday.

Khadija said she had not heard from Khawaja so far this week, and that she called prison authorities on Thursday asking to speak with him but they refused.

They had also told her a previously agreed visit to the military hospital where Khawaja is being treated, scheduled for Saturday, has been cancelled.

"The doctor has banned all visits and all phone calls... That's all they would tell me," said Khadija. "Why would a doctor do that if there's nothing wrong?"

Amnesty International says the couple's daughter, Zeinab, was charged with "disrupting traffic" after being arrested while "sitting down on a highway... in protest at her father's ongoing detention."

She is to be held until the end of the month "pending an investigation, and she is expected to have a hearing before a lower criminal court in a week," added the rights watchdog.

Khadija said she has only spoken to her daughter twice since she was detained, and that she had also been prohibited from seeing her.

"The authorities have denied me, Zeinab's husband and her two-and-a-half year-old daughter access to visit her while in detention," said Khadija.

On Monday, Bahrain's highest appeals court postponed for a week the final verdict in the case of 21 democracy activists convicted of plotting to overthrow the kingdom's rulers, including Khawaja.

Amnesty said the delay was "toying" with Khawaja's life.

On Thursday, Front Line Defenders, a non-governmental organization, called on the ministries to "allow family visits, restore daily phone calls and update his family on his medical condition."

"The denial of information to Abdulhadi's family is cruel and unjustifiable," said Mary Lawlor, executive director of Front Line Defenders.

The activist's deteriorating health has raised fears he may die, an event that could trigger further unrest in the kingdom still reeling from months of protests by the Shia Muslim majority against their Sunni rulers.

-AFP/NOW Lebanon