THE unholy alliance between Prime Minister Theresa May and the King of Bahrain was cemented last Wednesday when she met King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the day after the feudal despot had met the Queen at Buckingham Palace.
Bahrain is to be the site of a massive British naval base to house at least one of the two major aircraft carriers that are being built. British officers currently direct the Bahraini security forces who are currently seeking to crush a pro-democracy movement.
The international human rights organisation Reprieve has noted: ‘Britain gave Bahrain almost £2 million in aid money last year to support human rights “reforms” in the oil-rich Gulf kingdom, which is one of the UK’s closest allies in the region. However, Mohammed Ramadan, a father of three, remains on death row after he was tortured into making a false confession.
‘The UK has trained Bahraini investigators who are meant to assess his allegations, as well as tutoring police and prison guards at the jail where Mr Ramadan awaits imminent execution.
‘Mr Ramadan was arrested in February 2014 at Bahrain International Airport where he worked as a police officer, in retaliation for attending peaceful pro-democracy protests while off-duty.
‘He was accused of involvement in an attack on other police officers, despite no evidence tying him to the crime, and tortured into signing a false confession. Bahrain’s interior ministry remains marred by human rights abuses, despite years of UK training, much of which is delivered via a Northern Irish government-owned company called NI-CO.
‘Reprieve recently found that senior Bahraini police visited Belfast to discuss how to tell bereaved families that officers will not be prosecuted after a loved one has died in custody, raising concerns that the aid package was being manipulated. Foreign Office contractors have also trained around 400 prison guards at Bahrain’s Jau prison, where death row inmates including Mr Ramadan are being held. Details about the work with Bahrain’s jail guards remain classified and are now subject to a complaint to the Information Commissioner by Reprieve.’
Commenting, Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said: ‘Theresa May must urgently raise Mohammed Ramadan’s case with the King of Bahrain when they meet this week. Britain is deeply involved with Bahrain’s interior ministry at every level. The Prime Minister cannot wash her hands of torture and death sentences in the Kingdom.’
The king received an angry greeting in London, with protesters condemning the ruling Al Khalifah regime for its crackdown on dissent in the Persian Gulf kingdom. The protest erupted as the Bahraini ruler arrived to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May in London on Wednesday. Protesters chanted anti-government slogans and demanded the Manama regime be investigated for its rights abuses. Some of them threw themselves at a car carrying the king outside Downing Street.
Two prominent Bahraini human rights activists were detained by London police during the rally. Sayee Alwadaei, one of the arrested activists, told The Middle East Eye that the police ‘should be investigating the torture allegations coming from Bahrain, the abuses committed by the regime’ rather than targeting activists or journalists.
A court in Bahrain has ruled that the assets belonging to the al-Wefaq opposition group, which was the largest parliamentary group in the country before being banned and dissolved, be auctioned off. A judicial source said last Saturday that the bloc’s assets were to go under the hammer on Wednesday, October 26, after a verdict by an administrative court sanctioned the move two days earlier.
The properties include the group’s building headquarters outside the capital and two other offices in Shia villages, the source said. The group held the largest number of seats at the legislature before it was dissolved by the Manama regime in July. Before banning the group, the ruling regime had, among other things, accused it of ‘harbouring terrorism,’ inciting violence, and encouraging demonstrations. Al-Wefaq denied the accusations and the UN blasted the Bahraini regime’s move to ban it.
Last Monday, the Bahraini court that has the ultimate say in appeal requests in the country ordered a retrial of distinguished Shia opposition cleric Sheikh Ali Salman, who used to lead al-Wefaq. Salman was arrested in December 2014 for backing reforms in the country through peaceful means.
He was then sentenced on June 16, 2015 to four years in prison at a trial, which charged him with ‘publicly insulting the Interior Ministry’ and ‘publicly inciting others to disobey the law’ through his speeches. UK-based rights body Amnesty International described that trial as ‘unfair’.
After appealing the verdict, the Supreme Court of Appeal increased Salman’s prison sentence to nine years in May on charges of inciting violence and calling for anti-regime demonstrations. Since February 14, 2011, thousands of anti-regime protesters have held numerous demonstrations in Bahrain on an almost daily basis, calling on the Al Khalifah family to relinquish power.
Manama has relentlessly been cracking down on dissent. Troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have been deployed to the country to assist in the crackdown on peaceful protests. Scores of people have been killed and hundreds of others injured or arrested in the Bahraini crackdown on the anti-regime activists.
• A Qatar World Cup stadium worker has died in a building site accident, the first work-related fatality to be acknowledged by organisers of the 2022 soccer tournament that has been dogged by concerns about labour conditions in the Gulf nation. Qatar has previously reported three deaths at stadium construction sites but said they were not ‘work-related’.
The tiny, gas-rich country is relying on its large workforce of Asian labourers to build stadiums and related infrastructure to cope with staging soccer’s biggest tournament in the Middle East for the first time. The Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which is tasked with building World Cup sites, did not name the worker who died last Saturday morning at Al Wakrah Stadium or provide his nationality.
‘It is with deep regret we announce a work-related fatality on one of our projects,’ the committee said on its website. Qatari officials believe the worker was hit by a water truck. A full investigation is underway to determine the factors which contributed to the death of one of our workers,’ the Supreme Committee said. The relevant authorities were immediately informed and the family of the deceased have been notified. We offer them all the necessary support they may need at such a difficult time.’
Al Wakrah Stadium, which is 15 kilometres south of the capital Doha, is intended to resemble the sails on a traditional Qatari dhow boat and was designed by Zaha Hadid before the architect’s death in March. The 40,000-capacity venue is due to be completed by 2018 and host games up to the quarterfinals at the 2022 World Cup.
The emirate is expected to spend tens of billions of dollars before the November-December 2022 tournament kicks off, preparing eight new and renovated stadiums and related projects such as transport links and accommodation.