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Søvndal disappointed at Bahraini ruling

The foreign minister says the battle to win al-Khawaja’s release will continue.

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Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal says he is disappointed at today’s decision by Bahrain’s Court of Cassation to uphold a life sentence meted out to the Danish-Bahraini activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, but says the battle to win his release will continue.

Al-Khawaja was one of 12 activists sentenced by the Bahraini military court in 2011. His life sentence was subsequently confirmed by a civilian court of appeal last September. Monday’s ruling from the Court of Cassation, which is the highest appellate court, is the final appeal. Al-Khawaja’s sentence can only now be overturned by royal pardon.

“The sentences in Bahrain, including for the Danish citizen Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, are very disappointing. It concerns a Danish citizen who has been sentenced for speaking out as part of his struggle for human rights and who has been a victim of torture.,” Foreign Minister Søvndal says.

“I am disappointed, but our efforts will continue,” he adds, saying that the European Union and United Nations will be discussing “what further possibilities there are that can lead to the release of al-Khawaja and the other human rights and democracy fighters in Bahrain. In this context we will maintain that Bahrain must respect fundamental human rights, including the freedom of speech and assembly,” Søvndal says.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who has dual Danish-Bahraini nationality, is a member of the Shia Muslim majority in Bahrain and has criticised the country’s regime under King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah.

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