Bahrain visit: Cameron embraces tyranny

As President Obama tells the Middle East to embrace democracy, the Prime Minister welcomes Bahrain's Crown Prince to Britain

In Bahrain, it was another day of violence and repression as the Saudi-backed Al-Khalifa dynasty continued to clamp down on protesters demanding a better life for the repressed Shia majority.

But in Downing Street, David Cameron exchanged a warm handshake with Bahrain's Crown Prince, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa. While other Arab tyrants feel the full force of British disapproval, Sheikh Salman is here on a mission to repair the damaged reputation of his dynasty. His visit prompted an outcry from politicians and civil rights campaigners. It came on the day when President Obama delivered his first major speech on the Arab Spring, which he said would open a "new chapter in American diplomacy". "It will be the policy of the US to promote reform, and to support transitions to democracy," he promised.

The Labour MP Denis MacShane, a former Foreign Office minister, said: "It's unbelievable, at a time when Bahrain is becoming the torture chamber of the Gulf, with terrible reports of killings and beatings, that David Cameron has even allowed the torturer-in-chief into Britain, let alone into Downing Street." Amnesty International UK's director, Kate Allen, said: "The Prime Minister ought to make it clear to Sheikh Salman that Bahrain's relations with the UK will suffer if the Bahraini authorities refuse to allow peaceful protests or conduct proper investigations into numerous allegations that detained protesters have been tortured."

The civil rights campaigner Peter Tatchell described the visit as "a shocking misjudgment". He added: "To fete the Crown Prince of Bahrain at a time when his regime is arresting, jailing, torturing and killing peaceful democracy protesters is a slap in the face to the victims of repression."

Martial law is due to be lifted in Bahrain on 1 June after being imposed in March, when Saudi troops moved in after thousands of people protested for better conditions for the Shia majority.

This month, the Foreign Secretary William Hague took the lead in organising EU sanctions against Syria after government troops fired on protesters, but on Bahrain he has gone no further than saying that the UK is "very concerned" about civil rights abuses.

Hundreds of people have been arrested and tried since the demonstrations began in Bahrain. The state-run news agency reported yesterday that nine people, including the well-known Shia cleric Mohammed Habib al-Saffaf, have been sentenced to 20 years in prison on a charge of kidnapping a police officer.

Earlier this month, The Independent carried details of the persecution of medical staff who protested at being prevented from treating those injured in the demonstrations. Last month, a court sentenced four Shia protesters to death and three others to life imprisonment for killing two policemen.

The latest reports from Shia leaders suggest that a form of ethnic cleansing is under way by pressuring members of the Shia majority to leave. The minority Sunni ruling class in Bahrain is seen as a pro-Western bulwark against Iran. There is also vast British investment at stake in the sheikhdom. The taxpayer-owned Royal Bank of Scotland has £302m worth of loans tied up in Bahrain. In April, the annual meeting of the Bahrain British Business Forum looked back on what its chairman called a "record year".

A Downing Street spokesman said last night: "The Prime Minister raised concerns about the situation in Bahrain and stressed the importance of the government moving to a policy of reform rather than repression." Mr Cameron said grievances on all sides should be addressed "through constructive dialogue". The spokesman added: "The Prime Minister emphasised his support for the Crown Prince's long-standing work to achieve political and economic progress in Bahrain."

Until the wave of demonstrations began, British firms were supplying Bahrain with assault rifles, sub-machine guns, shotguns, sniper rifles, hand grenades, smoke ammunition, stun grenades, and tear gas. In 2009-10, arms sales totalled £6.4m. In February the Foreign Office hastily revoked 44 individual or open licences for arms sales.

Suggested Topics
News
In 2006, Pluto was reclassified as a 'dwarf planet'
scienceBut will it be reinstated?
News
Jennifer Lawrence at the Vanity Fair Academy Awards party in February 2014
people12 undisclosed female victims are seeking $100m in damages
Arts and Entertainment
Adam Levine plays a butcher who obsessively stalks a woman in Maroon 5's 'Animals' music video
music'Animals' video 'promotes sexual violence against women'
News
people Biographer says cinema’s enduring sex symbol led a secret troubled life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Voices
voicesI like surprises - that's why I'm bringing them back to politics, writes Nigel Farage
News
Bear and hare woodland scene from John Lewis Christmas advert
newsRetailer breaks with tradition, selling real festive fir trees online for the first time
Arts and Entertainment
Anthony Horowitz will write the next 007 novel
booksAnthony Horowitz to write new instalment in spy series for 2015
News
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
people
News
people

Kirstie Allsopp has waded into the female fertility debate again

Sport
Kicking on: Nathaniel Clyne is relishing the challenge of the Premier League after moving from Crystal Palace
footballSurprises include a first ever call-up for one Southampton star
Voices
4 May 2013: The sun rises over Tower Bridge in London. Temperatures across the UK could be higher than several European holiday destinations by Monday, including parts of Italy and France (Andy Hepburn/PA)
voices
News
The moon observed in visible light, topography and the GRAIL gravity gradients
science

...and it wasn't caused by an asteroid crash, as first thought

News
Researchers say a diet of fatty foods could impede smell abilities
scienceMeasuring the sense may predict a person's lifespan
News
newsGlobal index has ranked the quality of life for OAPs - but the UK didn't even make it into the top 10
Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Maths Teacher required to tea...

Digital Fundraising Analyst/Web Analyst - West Sussex - Permanent - £30k DOE

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Application Support Engineer – 6 month FTC – West Sussex - £26k-£28k pro rata

£26000 - £28000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: We are currently r...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: English Teacher required for ...

Day In a Page

Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

An app for the amorous

Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

She's having a laugh

Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

Let there be light

Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

A look to the future

It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
The 10 best bedspreads

The 10 best bedspreads

Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

Arsenal vs Galatasaray

Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?