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Campaigners Accuse UK of ‘Sportswashing’ as Queen Invites Bahraini King to Horse Show

Campaigners Accuse UK of ‘Sportswashing’ as Queen Invites Bahraini King to Horse Show
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By Staff, Agencies

The King of Bahrain was invited to attend the Royal Windsor Horse Show on Sunday after receiving a personal invitation from the Queen.

The invitation has eventually prompted anger from campaign groups who claim the UK is “sportswashing” the ‘increasingly repressive regime.’

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has been invited as a guest of the Queen for several years, suggesting a positive relationship between the two monarchies despite the grave human rights violations taking place in the Middle East.

King Hamad’s attendance at the show has not been confirmed as it was suspected that he may have returned to the Gulf early after the death of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE, on Friday.

The Queen is expected to face protesters, organized by the Campaign Against Arms Trade, who aim to highlight the event’s “sportswashing of human rights abuses in Bahrain.”

Among those attending the protest is exiled activist Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, whose Bahraini citizenship was revoked after he previously protested against the King of Bahrain at the horse show. Alwadaei is effectively stateless as a result.

“This is a typical public relations opportunity for the Bahraini regime to cover up its chilling human rights record,” according to Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s Head of Campaigns.

“Bahrain is a deeply repressive state where anyone critical of the government can be jailed merely for posting a tweet and prominent human-rights defenders are under relentless attack in the country,” Jakens added.

On Friday an open letter was sent to the Queen by five MPs, including former Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and two peers, to warn that inviting the king to the horse show was “a huge error of judgement and sends a devastating message to the victims of this brutal rule.”

Green Party peer, Natalie Bennet who also signed the letter said: “Pleased to sign this letter, sorry that I had to. Integrated Review said UK is ‘committed to protecting human rights and upholding global norms’. Sportswashing the Bahrain regime won’t do that.”

A separate letter, signed by international rights groups, was sent to sponsors of the horse show, including Land Rover and Hermes Paris, describing the invitation as a “textbook example of sportswashing.”

Since the peaceful 2011 uprising, aimed at removing the ruling monarchy, Bahrain has been engaged in the repression of its Shia majority. Human rights groups accuse the regime of using mass terrorism trials and the removal of citizenship to crack down on peaceful activists.

Amnesty International’s latest assessment of Bahrain says that its government continued to commit serious human rights violations, “including torture and other ill-treatment as well as suppression of freedom of expression and assembly. Official investigations of ill-treatment resulted in impunity for perpetrators.”