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Top UK Military Official Visits Bahrain, Rights Groups Condemn
In the wake of Bahraini regime striping citizenship of Ayatollah Sheikh Issa Qassim, the head of the British Armed Forces visited Bahrain, a step that was denounced by activists and rights groups.
General Sir Nicholas Houghton, Chief of Britain's Military Staff, arrived in Bahrain on Tuesday, only a day after the Bahraini regime stripped Sheikh Issa Qassim, the country's top cleric, of his citizenship, accusing him of sowing "sectarianism and violence."
Houghton met with Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, the commander-in-chief of the Bahrain Force.
In response, UK-based activism group, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy [BIRD], condemned the visit, saying, "Bahrain's ally, the UK, did not even postpone a meeting on military cooperation, let alone issue a statement on this gross repression of Bahrain's civil society," referring to the intensified Bahraini crackdown on dissent.
BIRD was referring to the declared purpose of the visit, namely follow-up coordination between the two countries in the wake of a bilateral agreement to establish a new British naval base in Bahrain.
"Britain is giving Bahrain a green light for repression," the group said.
For his part, Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International UK's head of policy and government affairs, also addressed the issue, saying, "Since its shiny new naval base in Bahrain was announced, the UK has apparently been prioritizing its military ties rather than rocking the boat over the Bahrain's increasingly dismal human rights record."
Besides, British MP, Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, said the visit was a "sad demonstration of just how little" the British government cares about human rights.
Source: News Agencies, Edited by website team
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