Lord Avebury discusses plight of Bahraini activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja with Foreign Office Minister

Lord Avebury
Lord Avebury

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Avebury and Khadija al-Moussawi, wife of jailed Bahraini activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, today held a meeting with the Foreign Office to discuss his plight.

Lord Avebury and Mrs al-Moussawi met with Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt to urge him to call on the Bahraini authorities to publish evidence that Mr al-Khawaja had engaged in or advocated the use of violence.

Human rights and political activist Mr al-Khawaja is an outspoken critic of Bahrain’s ruling Sunni royal family and was sentenced to life in prison by a military court in June 2011, accused of trying to depose them.

Human rights groups have said Mr al-Khawaja’s military trial was “grossly unfair”.

Today Lord Avebury and Mrs al-Moussawi spent 40 minutes with Mr Burt during which they asked him about evidence he gave to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee earlier this month. Mr Burt had said that he understood that, apart from freedom of expression “offences” Mr al-Khawaja had been convicted on “other serious charges” but, since he did not have access to the evidence, he was not in a position to judge whether the trials had been fair.

Lord Avebury said today: “Mrs al-Moussawi said that she had been in court every day throughout the trial of her husband in the military court and no evidence had been produced of serious offences.

“He did call for peaceful political change in language that would be perfectly acceptable and lawful in the UK. In particular, since 2004 he had called for the replacement of the serving prime minister, who had continued in post since 1972.

“We requested the Minister to ask for the publication of the alleged evidence against Abhulhadi al-Khawaja showing that he had engaged in or advocated the use of violence, and that it should be assumed that no such evidence existed if the Bahrainis failed to produce it.

“We also emphasised the lack of due process in the retrials of the Bahrain 13, to which attention had been drawn by Human Rights Watch.”

Lord Avebury said that they pointed to the cancellation at short notice for the second time of Bahrain’s invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, and said the Minister had said he had raised the matter with the Bahraini authorities.

He added the Minister had said that he had also called for the release of Mr al-Khawaja in cooperation with the government of Denmark, of which Mr al-Khawaja is a dual citizen.

 

Published and promoted by Tim Gordon on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, both at LDHQ, 8-10 Great George Street, London, SW1P 3AE.

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