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FOREIGN Office Minister Alistair Burt cosied up to Bahrain’s unelected leaders at yesterday’s meeting with the Gulf state’s crown prince and his retinue.
Mr Burt pushed ahead with the trip despite concerns raised by Bahraini exiles whose friends and relatives are held as political prisoners by the regime.
Their fears that Britain is too close to Bahrain were echoed by MPs, including Labour’s Lloyd Russell-Moyle, who have written to Mr Burt.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, a London-based dissident, warned that the minister’s visit came at a time when his frail mother-in-law was being denied vital medical treatment by Bahrain’s prison authorities.
Mr Alwadaei, director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird), said it was “crystal clear” that Britain “continued to overlook and cover up the horrific rights abuses that occur in the Gulf state.”
However, he hoped that “during his visit, Minister Burt has the opportunity to change this narrative and effect real change by advocating for the release of those imprisoned for exercising their fundamental human rights, including my family, who have endured nothing but a travesty of justice.”
Mr Alwadaei called on the Tory minister to visit his three jailed relatives while in Bahrain. The trio are expecting a verdict from Bahrain’s final appeals court on Monday.
Last month, United Nations experts found that all three are imprisoned arbitrarily and in reprisal for Bird’s advocacy work in Britain.
Another political prisoner, Ali al-Hajee, also wrote to Mr Burt before the visit and alleged that he had been tortured in Bahrain.
Mr Hajee said he was “one among the thousands of prisoners of conscience [and] victims of torture who are now languishing in Bahraini prisons.”
Campaign Against Arms Trade was highly critical of the trip. A spokesman said: “The Bahraini regime has inflicted a terrible crackdown on Bahraini people. Despite the torture and abuses, it has been armed and supported every step of the way by the UK government.”
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