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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Extras
indybest
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
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

Recruitment Genius: Facilities Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Facilities Manager is required to join the m...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Consultant - Mobile - OTE £35,000

£14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent telecoms compa...

Recruitment Genius: New Business Sales Consultant - Unified - OTE £35,000

£14000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent telecoms compa...

Recruitment Genius: Trade Sales Consultant - Furniture

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a besp...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum