At least three family members of UK-based Bahraini activists have been summoned by Bahraini security forces this morning, 13th of May 2017.

The detention of these activists’ families coincides with the attendance of Bahrain’s King Hamad at the Royal Windsor Horse Show today. The King is expected to be seated near Queen Elizabeth this afternoon in the Royal Box.

The sister of Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei, who is the Director of Advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, received a call from Muharraq Police Station demanding that she come for interrogation and refusing to give the reason for this request. Isa Alaali received a call from his father informing him that he too had been detained at Muharraq Police Station, while Saber Alsalatna, who took part in a protest against the King of Bahrain last October, was also informed that his sister had been called in for interrogation. At the time of writing, Al-Wadaei’s sister and her husband are still detained, along with Isa’s father.

Similarly, Yousif Alhoori, another Bahraini activist who is based in Berlin, received a call from his father during which a member of the Bahraini intelligence services asked him to remove a post on Twitter that encourages people to protest against the King of Bahrain and his son, Prince Nasser, who has been accused of torture. Later, Yousif received another call from his father’s mobile phone, during which a purported member of the Bahraini security forces asked him post an apology to the King.

Commenting, Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei said: “This morning my sister is being interrogated in a move to prevent me from protesting against the monarch of Bahrain and his son Nasser, accused of torture, who are participating in the Royal Windsor Horse Show. My family members, along with family members of other activists in London, are being held, as if they are hostages, by the monarch’s officers, to force us to call off the protest at the Royal Windsor.  This is a new low by the Bahraini authorities: blackmailing activists by detaining their family members in Bahrain. I hold the Monarch of Bahrain directly responsible for the targeting of my family in this cowardly attempt to silence me.”

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “There is no low that the despicable Bahraini dictatorship won’t sink to in order to intimidate those who speak out against it. This shows what an appalling contempt it holds for for human rights and democracy. The UK should be confronting it over its abuses, not hosting it and legitimising it at prestigious and high profile Royal events. If the government cares for the human rights of Bahraini people then it must call for the release of those that have been detained and end its political and military support for the regime.”

Since the crackdown began following the uprising in February 2011, the UK has licensed over £52 million worth of arms to the regime including.

  • £27 million worth of ML1 licences (small arms)
  • £5.7 million worth of ML3 licences (ammunition)

The UK also provides military training for Bahraini forces. Bahrain is listed by the government as a ‘priority market‘ for UK arms exports.

Background from Human Rights Watch

In 2012, the UK Home Office granted Sayed al-Wadaei leave to remain in the UK, three weeks after he fled Bahrain where he said police had beaten and tortured him in the aftermath of mass anti-government protests in 2011. In 2013, he set up the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), which has publicly accused senior members of Bahrain’s royal family of involvement in serious human rights abuses, including Prince Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa and Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim Al Khalifa.

On October 26, 2016,  al-Wadaei was among a group protesting the visit of Bahrain’s King Hamad  to meet British Prime Minister Theresa May. Police outside 10 Downing Street briefly detained Sayed al-Wadaei but did not charge him.

On October 27, senior Bahraini officials interrogated her at Manama airport as she checking in for a flight to join her husband in London, threatening her husband and both their families. Speaking to Human Rights Watch by telephone the day after the incident, she said airport officials asked her and the couple’s 2-year-old son to accompany them for a search. A seven-hour interrogation followed in which an official asked her about her husband’s work, threatened to revoke her family’s commercial licenses in Bahrain, informed her she was subject to a travel ban, and threatened her husband. She said the officer, who appeared to be a senior official, told her: “Deliver this message to your husband – I will get him,” as she left the interrogation.

Authorities in Bahrain arrested Sayed Alwadaei’s mother-in-law, Hajar Mansoor Hasan, and her son, Nazar Sayed Namaa al-Wadaei, on March 5 and March 2, 2017, respectively, and charged them with planting explosives. On April 5, a family member who spoke to Human Rights Watch by telephone said that many of the questions Criminal Investigations Directorate officers asked in the interrogation of Hasan and her son focused on the activities of Sayed Alwadaei in London. On March 16, 2017, the Bahrain embassy in London issued a statement that accused Sayed al-Wadaei of “supporting terrorist acts.”