Bahraini hunger striker al-Khawaja attends court in wheelchair for retrial in capital Manama
Bahraini hunger striker al-Khawaja attends court in wheelchair for retrial in capital Manama Reuters

The health of jailed Bahraini hunger striker Abdulhadi al-Khawaja is reportedly failing as a court has delayed a hearing for him and other 20 activists for two weeks.

Khawaja, who has been on hunger strike since 29 January in protest at receiving a life sentence for his role in pro-democracy protests last year, has told his wife that he "could not leave his bed" to go to the court and "has lost all his energy".

An urgent appeal on the website of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights claims that Khawaja "may be on his deathbed" after 91 days on hunger strike.

His wife said on Twitter that the activist did not call on Saturday because "he couldn't speak and was weak".

He could not go to court, where he is facing allegations of "setting up terror groups to topple the regime and change the constitution", because he could not stand still.

"The doctor asked him yesterday to take some IV and ensure liquid so he will be able to go to court but he refused," Khadija Almousawi tweeted. "He will continue his hunger strike. I know that he is getting weaker and weaker but I know also that his spirit is very high and he has strength of a nation in his weak, skinny body. He asked me to be strong. He asked me to be happy. I am strong for the sake of my family and I am happy for him to be able to continue his struggle for freedom."

Last week a Bahraini appeals court ordered a retrial for Khawaja along with other 20 opposition activists. Almousawi rejected the retrial as "ridiculous", claiming the Bahraini authorities were simply "playing for time" in the face of international pressure to release him.

Khawaja told the BBC in hospital that he was willing to continue his hunger strike despite widespread fear that he might die.

He claimed doctors forcibly hooked up feeding tubes and IVs on him.

Khawaja's lawyer complained that he had faced abuse in custody and been forced to sign confessions that they had used violence against King Hamad during last year's protests.

The 51-year-old activist was seized in a late-night raid at his daughter's house and, according to his family, beaten by police and not allowed to take his medication with him. He was sentenced to life imprisonment based on a confession that he said was extracted from him under duress.

Khawaja also charged that he and members of his family were sexually abused by military forces while they were in hospital. He spent seven days there blindfolded and handcuffed.