Jailed Saudi rights lawyer ends hunger strike


DUBAI, June 14, 2016 (AFP) – A jailed Saudi human rights lawyer who alleged ill-treatment in prison has ended a five-day hunger strike after authorities met some of his demands, an activist group said on Tuesday.
Walid Abulkhair, 36, ended his action on Sunday, said the Gulf Centre for Human Rights, which has been monitoring his case.
Authorities at his prison in the Red Sea city of Jeddah “allowed him to have access to a hospital and promised that they will give him access to the prison library on a daily basis, allowing him to take books into his cell,” the group said in a statement.
The centre, which has offices in Beirut and Copenhagen, welcomed the response but called for Abulkhair’s release as he had only engaged in “peaceful human rights activities”.
An appeals court in February last year upheld a 15-year jail term against Abulkhair on charges including “inciting public opinion”.
He began his hunger strike after prison management blocked him from taking medical tests, ordering appropriate food, having special visits and reading books or newspapers, the rights group said.
Abulkhair last year won the Ludovic Trarieux International Human Rights Prize, awarded by European bar associations to lawyers who defend human rights and fight intolerance and racism.
Abulkhair defended Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who was arrested in 2012 and convicted of insulting Islam.
Badawi is serving 10 years in jail and has received 50 lashes of a 1,000-lash sentence that caused international outrage.
The two activists were nominated for last year’s Nobel Peace Prize by a Norwegian member of parliament.

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