Lawyers for Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and members of the Bahrain opposition appealed a conviction on Monday for anti-state charges to the Court of Cassation. Al-Khawaja was sentenced to life imprisonment [JURIST report] last year by a military court and is now on a hunger strike, which has lasted over 50 days. In addition, seven other opposition leaders were sentenced [AP report] to life in prison with another 12 people facing lengthy prison sentences. This arrests took place after the Bahraini government [JURIST news archive] instituted martial law last March in response to political unrest in the country. Al-Khawaja began his hunger strike [JURIST report] on February 8 and several parties, including Danish diplomats, confirmed his deteriorating health. His sentence, which was affirmed in September by the National Safety Court of Appeal, also a military court, is now on appeal in the Court of Cassation.
The Bahraini government has been subject to numerous criticisms for its use of excessive force against citizen protesters. Last month Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] urged the Bahraini government to release al-Khawaja so that he does not die as a result of his 50-day hunger strike. Al-Khawaja, a Danish citizen, former protection coordinator with Front Line Defenders [advocacy website] and leading Bahraini human rights defender, was arrested for leading protests against the Bahraini government. AI said that Al-Khawaja was sentenced without a fair trial and was subject to torture and ill-treatment [JURIST report] while in custody. However, no investigation to verify such ill-treatment had been initiated.