Jailed Bahraini politician’s son extends hunger strike protest

Son of opposition leader Hassan Mushaima enters third week of hunger strike, saying his father is denied healthcare.

Bahrain activist Ali mushaima
Ali Mushaima, pictured, is protesting against the detention of his father Hassan Mushaima who was sentenced to life in prison in 2011 [Claire Gilbody-Dickerson/Al Jazeera]

A Bahraini man’s hunger strike against his father’s “torturous” life sentence in the Gulf state has entered its third week in London.

Ali Mushaima, the son of jailed Bahraini opposition leader Hassan Mushaima, has already spent 14 days away from his wife and four-month-old daughter and lost seven kilos since starting his demonstration outside the Bahraini embassy on August 1.

Hassan Mushaima, 70, was sentenced to life in prison in Bahrain in 2011 on charges of attempting to overthrow the government at the height of the Arab Spring.

Ali, 35, has been calling for his father to be granted his “basic rights”, namely access to medical treatment and family visits.

“It’s not easy to sleep on the streets. I left my daughter and my wife. It’s hard, but I have no choice,” he told Al Jazeera.

“I have to do something to save my dad’s life. Sometimes, we need to sacrifice ourselves to save others.”

Ali, who has been living in London since 2006, said his father suffers from several serious illnesses, including high blood pressure, diabetes, gout and a urinary tract infection, but has been kept from accessing medical treatment he relies on to survive.

Hassan also needs a scan every six months to check his cancer, with which he was diagnosed in 2010, has not returned. Ali claims his father has not had one for almost two years.

“No one will hear my father suffering or see him in his cell,” he said. “Now, I become weaker, I’m losing weight but everyone can see me and see how the Bahraini government is treating Bahraini people.”

The embassy in London dismissed the allegations about Hassan’s mistreatment and told the Reuters news agency that he had had all the medical attention he required.

It also said arrangements were made for him to get cancer screenings every six months, but Hassan had “refused to attend these scans on both occasions last year”.

Responding to the remarks, Ali said: “He has asked for medical treatment, unfortunately, the Bahraini government is lying to the population.”

He claimed his father only refused to be shackled when taken to receive medical assistance.

“He didn’t refuse any medical treatment, he is refusing humiliating treatment.”

UK ‘complicity’

Ali accused the UK of being complicit in Bahrain’s human rights abuse through its five million British pounds “technical assistance” fund, in place since 2012.

Most of the fund is purportedly aimed at briefing Bahrain’s police and prison guards on human rights, as well as establishing new bodies to investigate torture allegations, according to a report by Reprieve.

Ali called on the UK to take steps to ensure Bahrain, one of its allies in the Gulf region, resolves his father’s ordeal.

“The British government should be questioning what is their value in providing Bahraini authorities with technical assistance. If there is no value and the human rights abuses continue, they should stop.”

It should question if the “taxpayers should be paying for a dictatorship and human rights abuses”, said Ali.

The former Bahraini citizen said he tried flagging his plight with Britain’s Foreign Office. He said it raised the issue with senior Bahraini authorities “but nothing changed”.

‘Intimidated’ while protesting

Ali claimed he was physically intimidated at about 1:50am London time on Saturday morning.

According to him, a foamy liquid was thrown at him from the embassy’s balcony.

He had feared it was an acid attack.

He said there are two witnesses who support his claim that the liquid, which was not damaging, was hurled from the ambassador’s residence.

Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), told Al Jazeera the incident “couldn’t have happened without the direct instruction from the ambassador”.

A statement by London’s Metropolitan Police to Al Jazeera said police were alerted of an assault outside the embassy. They said no arrests were made, but an investigation continues.

Ali said he was “disappointed” when he expressed concern it could have been a real acid attack and police replied saying they had “limited power” to stop such incidents. They added they “hoped” it would not reoccur.

Source: Al Jazeera