Thursday 26 April 2018

Irish human rights campaigner refused entry to Bahrain

Brian Dooley has had his passport taken off him by officials in Bahrain
Brian Dooley has had his passport taken off him by officials in Bahrain

Kathy Armstrong

An Irish human rights campaigner who was refused entry to Bahrain today has had his passport taken off him by security officials there.

Brian Dooley has been held alongside Danish MP Lars Aslan Rasmussen for more than 12 hours in Bahrain International Airport after they travelled there to visit jailed Bahraini-Danish human rights activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja.

Al Khawaja was a prominent prodemocracy campaigner in Bahrain, who founded the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and was formerly a Middle East and North Africa Protection Co-Ordinator for the Dublin-based group Front Line Defenders.

He received a life sentence in April 2011 for charges of terrorism and attempting to overthrow the government.

Brian Dooley is in Bahrain alongside Danish MP Lars Aslan Rasmussen (L)
Brian Dooley is in Bahrain alongside Danish MP Lars Aslan Rasmussen (L)

Mr Dooley, who is from Dingle in Co Kerry and is now based in the UK, told Independent.ie: "This week marks seven years since Al Khawaja was arrested.

"We came to show that Al Khawaja and the other human rights activists in prison are not forgotten, and to remind the Danish government that it should be pressing much harder for his release."

The pair arrived at 2am this morning local time and after four hours they were informed they would not be allowed into the country but officials have still not given them their passports back.

"We're still in the airport, we've been here for twelve hours now, it's a chicken and egg situation because they don't want us to come into the country but they won't give us our passports back so we can't leave.

"We haven't been told when we'll get our passports back and they're useless to them anyway," he said.

Mr Dooley is a member of the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and a senior advisor with Human Rights First, he claims he has been banned from Bahrain for six years for documenting human rights abuses.

He said he thinks it's vital to continue this work, saying: "Bahrain needs to be constantly challenged about it torture, its targeting of human rights activists, its banning of the political opposition.

"Preventing members of parliament, human rights groups and journalists from entering the country shows how much the regime has to hide.

A Bahraini anti-government demonstratorcarries a placard with pictures of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who has been on hunger strike for 110 days (AP)
A Bahraini anti-government demonstratorcarries a placard with pictures of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who has been on hunger strike for 110 days (AP)

"Formula One fans planning to arrive this week should know what they’re getting into. Bahrain has become an out and out police state."

He said that the pair are hoping to get a flight to Copenhagen soon but he is prepared for the possibility that they could be arrested.

He explained: "Anything can happen here, I've heard of other journalists and human rights campaigners being arrested, so we are prepared for all eventualities.

"We think that if we were going to be arrested then we would have been by now but who knows what will happen?"

Ireland does not have an embassy in Bahrain but Mr Dooley said he has been in touch with our embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs told Independent.ie: "The Department is aware of the case and is providing consular assistance."

The Bahrain Embassy in the UK has been contacted for comment but they had not responded at the time of publication.

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