Peter Tatchell has accused the Queen of putting "royalty before human rights" as dictators prepare to join celebrities at this week's royal wedding. Among the guests who will hear Prince William and his fiancée exchange their wedding vows is the Crown Prince of Bahrain whose Gulf state has violently suppressed democracy protests in recent months.
Weeks of disturbances prompted the Bahraini ruler to impose martial law and invite foreign troops to help to restore order. Scores of doctors are reported to have been detained by security forces apparently for treating injured protesters. Another guest, King Mswati III of Swaziland, has been criticised by Amnesty International after using armed security forces to crush peaceful demonstrations.
Mr Tatchell said: "It's deplorable that the Queen has invited royal dictators from Bahrain, Swaziland and Saudi Arabia who preside over severe human rights abuses, including detention without trial, torture and violent repression of protests."
St James's Palace defended the wedding list yesterday, insisting the Foreign Office had approved it. "Invitations are extended from the Queen following the long-held tradition of inviting other crowned heads of state; we have taken advice from the Foreign Office about their continued inclusion," a spokesman said.
Libya's UK ambassador had his invitation rescinded after fighting began, but Zimbabwe's ambassador to Britain, Gabriel Machinga, remains invited.
Former Labour prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have been overlooked. St James's Palace said it was because, unlike Sir John Major and Baroness Thatcher, they are not Knights of the Garter. "It is not a state occasion, so there is no reason why they would be invited," a spokesman told The Sunday Telegraph.