Amnesty International Says Detained Bahraini Human Rights Defender “Al-Khawaja” at Risk of Blindness

The Amnesty International on Friday expressed concerns over the health condition of detained Bahraini human rights defender Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja after being denied medical care.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Lynn Maalouf, said Al-Khawaja has 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.

Maalouf said that Al-Khawaja was wrongfully imprisoned for the past 11 years, and called on Bahrain authorities to immediately ensure he receives the medical treatment.

“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 arbitrary exercise of authority, which in specific cases rise to the level of intentional ill-treatment,” according to Maalouf.

Al-Khawaja’s daughter Marya Al-Khawaja said that his father on 16 February 2022 stood in the prison yard and chanted slogans in solidarity with Palestinians, at the time of Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s visit to Bahrain. “I believe that my father’s medical treatment was stopped as retaliation for this incident,” Amnesty quoted Marya in a statement as saying.

Marya also reported that on 16 January Al-Khawaja was taken to a hospital appointment and made to sit in the car for three hours, and then brought back to prison without having seen a doctor. “Al-Khawaja has not been given access to any doctors since,” Marya added.

Al-Khawaja is among a group of opposition leaders and activists who were arrested in the spring of 2011 simply for taking part in peaceful protests, the amnesty said in a statement.

“Al-Khawaja’s arrest at the hands of the security forces was violent, resulting in a broken jaw. Al-Khawaja was subjected to additional physical, psychological and sexual torture in detention,” the amnesty added.

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