Bahraini MP spoke at London cooperative security seminar last month

 

A Bahraini politician who defended the Gulf state's government's torture and jailing of doctors was invited to privately discuss bilateral security cooperation with the UK by a London think-tank last month.

Jamal Fakhro, a senior MP who justified a crackdown on medics who help democracy protesters, was joined at the event by a high-ranking diplomatic adviser to the Bahraini king and the Arab nation’s ambassador to Britain.

During the invitation-only discussion the adviser, Dr Muhammad Abdul Ghaffar, appealed to a panel including Lt Col Thomas Tugendhat, Britain’s Military Assistant to the Chief of the Defence Staff, for “the need to intensify security co-operation” while Bahrain struggles to put down Arab Spring-style demonstrations against the regime.

The British Foreign Secretary William Hague has criticised the round-up of medics as “worrying” and “disproportionate”.

One attendee, who did not wish to be named, said the Bahraini delegation was “stacked” in favour of pro-government voices.

“There was almost no recognition that the violence is ongoing,” they told The Independent. “There was no acknowledgement from either side, from the UK side or the Bahraini side, that the repression if anything is intensifying.”

The private seminar, titled 'British-Bahraini Security Relations: bilateral co-operation in an age of change' and hosted on 22 March by a major UK defence think-tank, The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI), comes amid increased lobbying and publicity efforts by the Bahraini government to present a positive image of the country.

A spokesman for the Bahrain Justice & Development Movement criticised the event, saying: “Any discussions on the future of Bahrain should involve all parties, both government and opposition.”

The talks, the second of three events arranged together with Derasat, the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies, were billed by RUSI as “closed-door roundtable” discussions. But quotes of the address given by Dr Ghaffar – who has the ear of the king, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa – emerged via Bahrain’s state media, which lauded the talks as signs of diplomatic collaboration.

The treatment of Bahraini doctors attempting to care for injured protesters caused international outrage when it was exposed last year. Many were later sentenced to 15 years in prison, to the condemnation of Mr Hague along with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

However, Mr Fakhro, deputy chair of the country’s Shura Council, last summer accused the medics of taking part in a “coup” by helping the protesters. He added that Bahrain “put people who prefer to play politics rather than to be doctors” in jail. “It is unfortunate. We don't want to see them in jail but they have made a mistake,” he said in an interview with Al Jazeera.

The attendance of Lt Col Tugendhat follows criticism of the UK – a leading arms exporter and key strategic defence ally to the Middle Eastern island nation – by human rights groups for its less hardline attitude to the kingdom compared to other regimes facing Arab Spring protests. They claim that Britain’s trade and military links with Bahrain have helped to ensure that it is protected from external pressure.  

Dr Ghaffar also used the event to call for more financial investment in Bahrain by Britain. “With regard to Bahraini-British relations, economic cooperation is an essential pillar of cooperation,” he told the group. “Around 520 British companies have their branches in Bahrain and around 88 British companies in banking, oil, insurance and investments are based in Bahrain.

"In its bilateral relations with Bahrain, Britain should take into consideration that over the last decade, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states have consolidated their regional and economic cooperation. The region produces more than 30 per cent of the world's oil needs and 14 per cent of world gas production and recent studies in the field of energy, expects world oil demand to double by 2030. In terms of trade with Britain, the GCC is the seventh largest importer of British goods, amounting to £15bn; a figure which exceeded the United Kingdom’s total exports to India and China together in 2010. During the same year, Bahrain’s total trade value with the United Kingdom reached around $337m.”

Among the other British attendees was the former ambassador to Bahrain, Sir Harold Walker.

An MOD spokesman said: “It is patently ridiculous to question the attendance of a military officer at a respected independent defence thinktank event. The British Military has personnel stationed in Bahrain so it is prudent for the MoD to be informed of the thinking of Bahraini officials who attend this event. The officer [Lt Col Tugendhat] made no contribution to the debate since the policy towards Bahrain is a Foreign Office matter.”

A spokesman for RUSI said: “RUSI is an independent thinktank that organises a large number of conferences, seminars and round-tables about a variety of international security issues. Most of these are sensitive, and some are controversial, but the Institute prides itself on its ability to act as a platform for an exchange of ideas and broader ‘track-two’ contacts between government officials, academics, journalists and other practitioners in the field.” Sir Harold Walker declined to comment.

He added that all those who attended did so "in their private, rather than official capacity," and that its "academic engagement programme implies no endorsement of any government, or any characterisation of a conflict".

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn