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Bahraini activist Maryam al-Khawaja says British airliner stopped her from flying to Manama

Bahraini activist Maryam al-Khawaja speaks on the phone at Heathrow Airport, in London, Sept. 15, 2023. (Photo by AP)

A daughter of prominent Bahraini rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja said on Friday she was stopped in London from flying to the Arab kingdom to support her detained father and push for his release.

Maryam al-Khawaja, a dual Bahraini-Danish citizen, said she was refused boarding on a British Airways flight from London, and was told that she should speak to Bahraini immigration authorities.

"Effectively we are being denied boarding by British Airways on behalf of the Bahraini government," Khawaja said in a video posted on X, formerly Twitter.

She added that a group of activists, including Olive Moore, the Interim Director of Front Line Defenders, who intended to accompany her, were also refused permission to board.

The Bahraini activist said she was returning home because her father, Danish-Bahraini citizen Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, has resumed a hunger strike in protest at the lack of access to medical care.

Khawaja said she expected to be arrested in Bahrain, where she was convicted in absentia of assaulting police, a charge she denies, and has another four cases pending.

British Airways, responding to questions about Khawaja being stopped from the flight, said: “All airlines are legally obliged to comply with immigration control laws and entry requirements for customers as set by individual countries.”

Bahrain's government said in a statement it “reserves the right to refuse entry, if deemed necessary.”

Khawaja in ‘worrying state’

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, 62, received a life sentence in 2011 for organizing protests against the government.

He is one of scores of dissidents imprisoned since authorities backed by a Saudi military force crushed peaceful demonstrations against the ruling regime. 

Last month, hundreds of prisoners at the notorious Jaw prison in Bahrain, which also holds al-Khawaja, went on a hunger strike to protest the conditions of their detention in one the largest demonstrations against the government in years.

The prisoners suspended their hunger strike this week, but al-Khawaja resumed his over reportedly being denied access to health care.

A UN expert said Friday the deteriorating health of Khawaja and two other activists held in Bahrain, Abduljalil al-Singace and Naji Fateel, was "extremely" concerning.

Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, said "medical negligence and lack of adequate care has left them in a worrying state".

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