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Exiles angry as Queen hosts king of Bahrain

The king of Bahrain is expected to attend the Royal Windsor horse show on Sunday after a personal invitation from the Queen, prompting anger from campaigners who claim the UK is “sportswashing” what they say is an increasingly repressive regime.

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has been invited as a guest of the Queen, demonstrating a warmth of official ties despite the Middle Eastern state’s outlawing of political opposition, and human rights violations including torture. Ahead of the UK’s largest outdoor horse show, King Hamad offered congratulations to Vladimir Putin on Russia’s Victory Day, which was held last week.

Among those attending the protest are exiled activist Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, whose Bahraini citizenship was revoked after he previously protested against the king of Bahrain at the Windsor horse show and who is, in effect, stateless as a result.

Alwadaei, director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said: “While the people of Bahrain continue to live under the brutal repression of the Al Khalifa dictatorship, with prisons full of peaceful dissidents, once again the red carpet is being rolled out for King Hamad in the UK. His invitation to the Royal Windsor horse show is morally bankrupt and sends a clear signal that the UK is a safe haven for dictators and human rights abusers.”

Jeed Basyouni, who leads Reprieve’s Middle East team, said: “The UK welcomes King Hamad and agrees not to mention the people tortured into making false confessions by his security services.

“And, each year, Bahrain’s rulers return home with the comforting thought that no matter how much pain they inflict on their people, they will still be feted in England.”

The invitation to the king comes after the organisers of the Windsor event agreed to adopt a human rights policy following a complaint that the show is being exploited by the Bahrain royal family to distract from rights abuses. Read the full story in The Observer.