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British government spent thousands advising Bahrain's dictatorship how to keep citizens under house arrest

The Star can reveal that diplomats forked out £14,319 to bring eight Bahraini officials to England where they toured courts and probation centres

THE British government spent thousands of pounds advising a Gulf dictatorship how to keep its citizens under house arrest, the Star can reveal.

Diplomats forked out £14,319 to bring eight Bahraini judges and Interior Ministry officials to England, where they also toured courts and probation centres.

The trips were meant to encourage Bahrain to use alternatives to custodial sentences, because the Gulf kingdom has one of the highest proportions of people behind bars in the Middle East.

But now critics say the scheme was a waste of money, after a Bahraini appeal court upheld a draconianjail sentence for the country’s top human rights activist last month.

Campaigner Nabeel Rajab, who is serving a five-year jail term for speaking out against Bahrain’s ruler on social media, had asked for early release in return for doing community service.

His plea was refused, and he remains in a maximum security prison where his health is deteriorating.

The ruling came just months after Bahraini officials were treated to tours of Britain’s most famous courts, including the Old Bailey and the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Bahraini judges also spent time at courts in Liverpool, and officials from the country’s fearsome Interior Ministry were allowed privileged access to probation offices in Manchester and Liverpool.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, advocacy director at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy in London, slammed the visits, which his team uncovered through a freedom of information request.

Mr Alwadaei told the Star: “These British-funded delegations from Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior and Justice have resulted in prominent political prisoners, detained under false pretences, being further excluded from the implementation of non-custodial sentences.”

Several of Mr Alwadaei’s relatives in Bahrain have been jailed in retribution for his human rights work, leading him to warn: “Keeping Nabeel Rajabor my mother-in-law, Hajer Mansoor, behind bars – despite their arbitrary detentions being noted by the UN – brings into question the value of the UK’s technical assistance programme to Bahrain.

“It also seemingly legitimises the actions of a nation that practises discrimination and repression of its citizens rather than upholding the rule of law.”

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