DUBAI, Oct 30 – Bahrain authorities prevented the wife of a Bahraini dissident and their infant son, a U.S. citizen, from boarding a flight to London after he staged a protest against a visit by the Gulf state’s king to Britain, human rights groups said.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the UK-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, was one of two activists briefly detained by police in London when they shouted at the king’s car as it approached Prime Minister Theresa May’s office on Wednesday.
Hours later, the exile’s Bahraini wife, Duaa, 25, and their 19-month-old son were detained for seven hours at Bahrain airport as they tried to fly out of the kingdom to join him in London, rights groups said.
“Duaa Alwadaei has now been banned from leaving Bahrain, although she has UK residency,” UK legal charity Reprieve said, adding Bahraini police and members of the public threatened Seyed Ahmed Alwadaei and his family in recent days.
Alwadaei said it was not clear to him how long his wife would be prevented from leaving. “The last words of the authorities to her were that ‘leaving Bahrain will be in your dreams’,” he said in brief remarks to Reuters.
Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim-led government has come under criticism from its Western allies and rights groups for its handling of dissent. Activists say a major crackdown is underway targeting Shi’ite and secular opposition.
Bahrain’s Shi’ites say they suffer discrimination, though the government denies this. Manama accuses Shi’ite power Iran of fomenting unrest on its soil, a charged Tehran denies.
The Bahrain government and its embassy in London did not immediately reply to queries from Reuters about the case.
The Guardian quoted a statement by Bahrain’s London embassy as saying Duaa Alwadaei was briefly detained for questioning, searched and released. “At no time was she abused or mistreated by authorities,” it said.
Alwadaei lives in exile in London with his wife and child. His wife and son were on a short family visit to Bahrain when the incident took place, Reprieve said.
“While King Hamad is receiving the red carpet treatment in the UK, his goons in Bahrain are terrorising Sayed Alwadaei’s wife and their infant son, preventing them from leaving the country, and issuing unveiled threats against their families,” said Nicholas McGeehan, a Bahrain researcher at Human Rights Watch.
The U.S. State Department said on Friday it was looking into reports that a child with U.S. citizenship was prevented from leaving Bahrain, according to the State Department website.
King Hamad, a close ally of Britain, was making his first visit to the since May became prime minister in July.