SHAFAQNA – A Bahraini prince who is accused of torturing protesters during the Arab Spring has returned to London days after a High Court ruling stripped him of immunity from prosecution in Britain. Human rights activists have accused the government of providing a covert guarantee of immunity to Prince Nasser al-Khalifa, the son of King Hamad, a longstanding British ally.
Prince Nasser, 27, attended a charity event at the Savoy Hotel at the weekend, a fortnight after two senior judges quashed a ruling by the former director of public prosecutions that the prince enjoyed state immunity.
A small group of protesters outside the hotel was moved on and an attempt by one to perform a citizen’s arrest on the prince was prevented by police.
“Prince Nasser evidently feels supremely confident that he will not face arrest in the UK despite the decision of the British courts, said Nicholas McGeehan, of Human Rights Watch. “If the British government has given an iron-clad guarantee to the prince that this is a risk-free visit, then it’s yet another example of the spineless kow-towing that has characterised this British government’s relationship with Bahrain’s ruling family.”
The Bahraini government denies allegations that Prince Nasser tortured protesters during a crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations at the height of the Arab Spring in 2011. Dozens were killed and hundreds jailed as the government crushed the protests.
The allegations resurfaced when a Bahraini man, named as FF, who was given asylum in Britain, sought the prince’s arrest in 2012. Keir Starmer, who was the director of public prosecutions, ruled that the prince, as a member of the Bahraini royal family, was immune.
The decision was overturned two weeks ago. Lawyers for FF said they would submit more evidence against the prince to secure his arrest.
Activists have noted that Iain Lindsay, the British ambassador to Bahrain, had a meeting with Prince Nasser the day after the high court ruling was announced. Diplomatic sources insisted yesterday that the prince had received no private guarantees of immunity. The Foreign Office said it could not comment on individual cases.
The campaign is a headache for the government, which has tempered its criticism of the Bahraini regime. The UK hopes to sell Typhoon fighter jets to the Gulf state. King Hamad has also pledged £100 million to enable bigger British warships to dock there.
Source : themes.co.uk