A nearly three-month long hunger strike has turned activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, awaiting a final court ruling on Monday along with 14 other jailed activists, into a symbol of Bahrain's uprising that began last year.
One of their lawyers told Agence France Presse on Sunday that he expects the case, now in Bahrain's highest appeals court, the Court of Cessation, to be reviewed.
The 52-year-old father of four, on hunger strike since February 8, is among 21 activists -- seven of them tried in absentia -- who were convicted in June of plotting to overthrow the Gulf kingdom's rulers.
Seven of them, including Khawaja, have been jailed for life while 14 others were sentenced to between two and 15 years in prison.
Khawaja, arrested in last April shortly after the Sunni regime crushed a month-long Shiite-led uprising, will continue his hunger strike -- the fourth since his arrest -- until he is "released or dead," sources close to him say.
I "don't know if he's alive, don't know if he's awake, don't know if he's in Bahrain... I don't know anything about him," his wife Khadija Moussawi told AFP.
She said she has not heard from her husband since April 23, two days after he decided to stop drinking water.
Authorities have repeatedly said that Khawaja is in good health. But Moussawi, who met her husband for the first time in London 30 years ago, doubts it.
"They say he is in good health, but if that's true, then why won't they let me speak to him, why won't they let me see him?" she asked.
Their daughter Zeinab was also arrested on Saturday after taking part in an anti-government sit-in.
Khawaja's determination has prompted demonstrators across Bahrain to chant his name and brandish his portraits during protests that have intensified over the past month.
His name also resonates abroad. The United Nations, Western governments and rights groups have all voiced concerns over the situation of Khawaja, a Shiite with dual Danish and Bahraini nationality.
Bahrain by contrast has lashed out at foreign countries and asked them to stay out of its "internal affairs."
The kingdom had also rejected a request by Denmark to receive the activist.
Khawaja's hunger strike will likely "not have an impact on the Bahraini regime... but it creates awareness internationally," said Bahraini rights activist Nabil Rajab.
"It has brought attention to Bahrain and shows how much the government is repressive," Rajab told AFP.
At the early age of 18, Khawaja was forced into exile over his human rights activities, said Rajab, who has known him since 1997.
Khawaja and Rajab, along with a couple other individuals, co-founded the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
From 2008 to 2011, Khawaja served as Front Line Defenders' Middle East and North Africa Protection Coordinator, according to the Irish NGO's website.
More than 120 human rights defenders from across the region signed an appeal for his release within days of his arrest.
"In his work with us over three years, he demonstrated... how committed he was to protecting human rights," said Front Line Defenders director Mary Lawlor, who described Khawaja as having a "very gentle manner" and a "sparkle in his eye."
Monday's verdict might be crucial in determining the course of events in Bahrain, where 35 people were killed in the regime crackdown on protests between mid-February and mid-March 2011, according to an independent probe.
The previous verdicts were "void," said one of the lawyers of the 14 defendants Mohammed al-Tajer. "I expect the rulings which were made by a military court to be reversed and the case to be taken to the Criminal Appeals Court."
King Hamad announced a state of "national safety" ahead of last year's mid-March crackdown, in which many activists arrested were tried in special courts.
It was later lifted and scores of opposition activists and protesters, handed stiff punishments including several death sentences, were tried again by civil courts.
Amnesty International says at least 60 people have been killed in connection with protests since February last year.
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