British Human Rights Lawyer barred from Bahrain

A top British lawyer was refused entry into Bahrain this morning and immediately deported after planning a visit that included acting as an international observer to the coming trial of Khalil Almarzooq. Pete Weatherby QC, a member of the UK Bar Human Rights Committee, had travelled to Bahrain on Sunday morning, arriving just before 10pm local time. In the early hours of this morning he was refused an entry visa and had his luggage put on the next flight out and told to leave immediately. He was refused the chance to wait until working hours began in order to discuss the situation with the UK Embassy in Manama.

Mr. Weatherby QC had planned to meet with Government officials during the trip, to discuss implementation of the BICI and the recent follow-up report, as well as observe the trial of Khalil Almarzooq. He had applied for a visa in advance of his trip, although had received no response from the authorities, despite the UK Consular website claiming it should take no more than 72 hours to be processed.

Mr. Weatherby QC had visited Bahrain in both 2010 and 2011 in order to observe trials of other political figures and activists, having no issue with gaining access to the country. Al Wefaq National Islamic Society, Bahrain’s main opposition bloc, said this “shows the lack of progress over reform and in fact the deterioration in the human rights situation.” Furthermore they added, “We view this incident as a clear indicator that the authorities have something to hide to the international community,” describing the decision as “unjustified” and “unacceptable”.

The third hearing in the case of Khalil Almarzooq, Political Assistant to Al Wefaq Secretary General, is due to take place on Thursday 12th December. He was previously detained for 1 month in September and October, before being released on bail with the condition of a travel ban. Almarzooq is accused of inciting violence, a charge we have described as a pretext for a politically motivated attack.

The Bahrain Justice and Development Movement is highly concerned at the refusal to allow a respected human rights lawyer into the country and at what this could mean ahead of the trial of Almarzooq on Thursday. Stopping international observers from entering Bahrain is not the action of a state that is committed to the rule of law or a proper judicial process. We call on the authorities to apologise to Mr. Weatherby QC for refusing him entry and to guarantee him future access, in addition to continuing to call for the immediate dropping of all charges against Khalil Almarzooq.

 

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