DUBAI (Reuters) - Bahrain ruled out extraditing jailed political activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja on Sunday despite a request from Copenhagen to hand him over because his health is worsening after a two-month hunger strike and he is also a Danish citizen.
Khawaja, a leading figure in Shi’ite Muslim-led protests against the Sunni ruling family that were crushed last year, received a life term for charges including attempting to topple the monarchy. Thirteen other activists were convicted.
The state BNA news agency quoted an official of Bahrain’s highest judicial body as saying criminal law allowed extradition for those who have been accused or sentenced only when specific conditions are met.
“The case of the convict Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is not among them,” it said.
The news agency said on Saturday that Bahrain’s foreign minister had received a request from Danish counterpart Villy Soevndal to turn over Khawaja, whose hunger strike is a protest against his conviction and abuses in the crackdown on protests.
Khawaja’s lawyer said on Friday that the activist had been moved to a military hospital and was being fed intravenously. Riot police faced off with more than 5,000 demonstrators near the capital Manama who demanded that Khawaja be released.
Bahrain, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, says it is making progress implementing recommendations of the inquiry it commissioned into the unrest, the island kingdom’s worst since sectarian-tingled political turmoil in the 1990s.
The inquiry found that some of the more than 2,000 people detained in the aftermath of the protests died under torture.
Protests continue almost daily in Shi’ite areas of the country. Bahrain denies charges of sectarian discrimination that protesters have leveled at its ruling family, and has called the demonstrations a destabilization attempt bid by Shi’ite Iran.
Iran denies any interference in Bahrain’s affairs.
Writing by Joseph Logan; editing by Sami Aboudi and Matthew Tostevin