Date :Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 | Time : 17:09 |ID: 17220 | Print

Bahraini prince not immune from torture charge

SHAFAQNA –  A Bahraini prince could face a police investigation after the High Court ruled that he was not immune from prosecution over torture allegations. Two senior judges quashed a decision by the former director of public prosecutions that the son of Bahrain’s king had state immunity. Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa, a regular visitor to Britain, is accused of being involved in the torture of prisoners during a pro-democracy uprising in Bahrain in 2011. A Bahraini citizen, referred to in court as FF, sought his arrest. However, he was told by Sir Keir Starmer, the previous DPP, that the prince would be immune from prosecution because he was a member of the Bahraini royal household.

Yesterday Lord Justice Laws, sitting with Mr Justice Cranston, endorsed an order that that decision was “erroneous in law”. The decision was due to be contested at the hearing but Alison Saunders, the present DPP, backed down.

The police have previously decided that there was not enough evidence for an investigation. If this situation changed, a warrant for Prince Nasser’s arrest could be sought, putting him at risk of being detained if he left Bahrain.

FF, who has been granted asylum in the UK, claims that he was badly beaten, injured by police, held without charge and given a jail sentence after taking part in the protests.

He said in a statement after the ruling: “While he [the prince] is visiting other royal families and horse-riding, there are 13 prisoners of conscience. Two of them have said in open court in Bahrain that the prince tortured them.”

The Bahraini government issued a statement saying that it categorically denied the claims, and called them politically motivated.

Torture allegations were given to the Crown Prosecution Service in 2012 while the prince was in Britain for the London Olympics.

Tom Hickman, appearing for FF, told the court that the prince was claiming immunity under the State Immunity Act 1978, but lawyers for Prince Nasser said that he had “never claimed immunity”. The Bahraini government said: “The government reiterates its firm condemnation of torture and recognises its responsibility to investigate any reasonable allegation.”

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