| DUBAI, April 25
DUBAI, April 25 The wife of a jailed Bahraini
activist said on Wednesday she was worried for the health of her
husband after more than two months of hunger strike.
Bahrain's interior minister, speaking after weeks of
protests against a Formula One Grand Prix here, described as a
terrorist act an explosion in a village near Manama on Tuesday
night that wounded four policemen. It said security forces had
the right to protect themselves.
Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, one of 14 men in prison for leading an
uprising last year, is serving a life sentence for expressing
support last year for Bahrain becoming a republic. He has been
fasting for 77 days.
Bahrainis won no major concessions on reducing the powers of
the Sunni ruling Al Khalifa family in the protests, but one year
later the uprising has not gone away.
In response to queries on Khawaja's health, the interior
ministry said to refer to its Twitter feed. There was no new
information on Wednesday.
Khawaja's wife, Khadija al-Mousawi, said her husband had
failed to call on Tuesday from the military hospital where he is
being monitored during his hunger strike and she was unable to
obtain any information on his health on Wednesday.
"Something is very wrong," Mousawi said. "He was talking
about accepting death as the path of freedom, he sounded very
weak and tired," she added, referring to her last conversation
with Khawaja on Monday.
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday expressed concern about
the activist, respected by international rights groups as a
rights defender but seen by some Bahrainis as a Shi'ite Islamist
activist, and called on Bahrain to respect human rights.
"The Secretary-General once again urges the Bahraini
authorities to resolve Mr. Al-Khawaja's case based on due
process and humanitarian considerations without any further
delay," Ban Ki-moon's office said.
"The Secretary-General remains concerned about the situation
in Bahrain, particularly with regard to the continuing clashes
between security forces and protesters which have resulted in
more casualties," Ban's office said.
An appeal hearing is under way for the case of Khawaja and
13 others jailed for leading last year's protests, and the next
hearing is next week.
Western allies such as Britain and the United States, whose
Fifth Fleet is moored in Manama, have offered only muted
criticism of Bahrain for fear of alienating a trusted friend as
well as its Saudi neighbour, which fears unrest could spread
amongst Shi'ites in the oil region of its Eastern Province.
ATTACK ON RIOT POLICE
Four policemen were wounded by an explosion in a village
west of Manama on Tuesday night that the government said was a
"terrorist" act after weeks of protests against a Formula One
Grand Prix held in the Gulf Arab state last week.
Police deploy armoured vehicles, teargas, sound bombs and
birdshot to lock protesters down and prevent a critical mass
from re-forming. The Manama roundabout at the centre of last
year's uprising remains closed under tight security lockdown.
Activists say the death toll has risen to 80 from 35,
including five security personnel, when martial law was lifted
The government disputes the causes of death and accuses
protesters in villages of being hooligans who try to endanger
police lives with a sectarian agenda to destabilise the country.
"The security forces have the right to defend themselves
within the framework of the law, there are clear degrees to the
use of force," Sheikh Rashed bin Abdullah al-Khalifa said in
comments carried on the state news agency BNA.
"Those who claim there is excessive use of force or laxity
by the security forces are working to distort the noble work of
The Grand Prix gave world media a window on the conflict in
Bahrain despite government hopes that the prestigious motor
racing event would signal that all was back to normal there.
The banking and tourism hub is a shadow of its former self.
Hotels and office space have low occupancy and fewer Saudi
weekend visitors frequent its bars, restaurants and malls. Few
foreign media have correspondents based in the country.
The International Monetary Fund said on Tuesday the small
oil-exporter should find policies that end the social unrest and
restore confidence in its economy.
Bahrain's economic growth slowed to 2.2 percent in 2011,
down from 4.5 percent in the previous year after some businesses
closed and investors withdrew from the country's mutual funds.
"Further measures to diversify the economy, improve the
investment climate, and strengthen the labor market are
essential for sustained growth and employment," the IMF's
executive board annual assessment said.