Bahrain refuses Danish request to transfer hunger striker

Bahrain has rejected the Danish government's request to transfer a jailed activist who has spent two months on hunger strike to Denmark for emergency treatment, the kingdom's official news agency said.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja once lived in Denmark and has Danish citizenship. He is serving a life sentence for his role in last year's uprising by the Shia majority against a Western-backed Sunni monarchy, and has been refusing food since 8 February.

The Bahrain News Agency said the Supreme Judicial Council has declined to hand him over to Danish authorities because the law prevents transfers of "convicted persons to foreign countries".

Bahrain's opposition supporters have been staging daily rallies for Mr Khawaja's release, frequently clashing with security forces. The demonstrations have helped fuel rising tensions in the kingdom two weeks before it is due to stage the Formula One Grand Prix race – its premier international event, which was cancelled last year because of the political unrest.

The government said last week that Mr Khawaja, 52, has lost 10kg during the hunger strike. His lawyer said that Mr Khawaja is weak but was conscious on Friday when he visited him in hospital.

Mr Khawaja's declining health has prompted appeals from groups such as Amnesty International, which last week urged Bahrain to free him because of fears he could die.

There was no immediate comment from Danish authorities on Bahrain's decision yesterday.