Bahrain hunger striker force-fed, drugged: wife

DUBAI (Reuters) - The wife of a jailed Bahraini activist and hunger striker said on Sunday he was being drugged and force-fed, but authorities denied the accusations saying the man had agreed to receive medical treatment.

Protesters dodge teargas canisters fired by riot police during clashes in Sanabis, west of Manama, April 27, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, one of 14 men imprisoned on charges of leading an uprising in the island kingdom last year, has been fasting for more than two months.

“I went to see my husband today and he told me that he was drugged last Monday,” Khadija al-Mousawi told Reuters by phone after what she said was her first visit to her husband in two weeks.

“After he woke up he found two IV (intravenous) injections in his arms and a feeding-tube down his nose. It was done against his will,” she added.

Bahrain’s Defense Forces Hospital, where Khawaja is being kept, dismissed the accusations in an emailed statement.

“We want to be clear that the patient has not been force-fed or treated against his will,” said the statement quoting a spokesperson.

“He has been taking limited nutrition supplements voluntarily, but when his blood sugar dropped significantly today, his doctors asked for and received his consent to insert a naso-gastric tube for nutrition. At no time was he drugged or restrained.”

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja’s wife said a doctor had told her husband it was his duty to start the force-feeding to keep the activist alive, however her husband saw the act as a violation of his rights.

The activist had decided he had no choice but to accept the feeding through a nose tube and intravenous injections, she added.

“My husband told them he will only accept (the intravenous feeding) until his trial on Monday and depending on the outcome will decide what to do next.”

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was given a life sentence for calling for the creation of a republic. An appeal hearing is to be held this week in the case of Khawaja and 13 others jailed for leading last year’s protests.

Bahrain, where the Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa family rules over a majority Shi’ite Muslim population, has been in turmoil since an uprising erupted last year demanding reforms after successful revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.

The protests escalated ahead of last week’s Formula One Grand Prix, drawing criticism of Bahrain from some governments, rights groups and media watchdogs who say police use excessive force and the government should find a political solution.

Western allies such as Britain and the United States, whose Fifth Fleet is moored in Manama, have offered only muted criticism of Bahrain.

Bahrain’s neighbor Saudi Arabia also fears unrest could spread amongst Shi’ites in its oil-producing Eastern Province.

Reporting by Amena Bakr; Editing by Andrew Heavens