Bahrain bars Danish MP from meeting jailed activist

Bahrain bars Danish MP from meeting jailed activist
Danish MP Lars Aslan Rasmussen was denied entry into Bahrain, authorities said in a statement on Wednesday.

2 min read
05 April, 2018
The MP and human rights activist attempted to visit Khawaja on his 57th birthday [Twitter]
A Danish Social Democrat lawmaker has been denied entry to Bahrain where he planned to meet a jailed leading human rights activist, Copenhagen and an NGO said on Wednesday. 

"MP Lars Aslan Rasmussen has been denied entry into Bahrain," Danish undersecretary for consular affairs, Rene Dinesen, said in a statement. 

Aslan Rasmussen spent several hours at Bahrain International Airport in Manama and then tweeted he had been thrown out in the late afternoon after first having his passport confiscated.

The Danish foreign ministry confirmed he had been denied entry. 

Accompanied by Brian Dooley, an Irish activist at the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Aslan Rasmussen was seeking to protest against the detention of Danish-Bahraini citizen Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who in 2011 was sentenced to life for conspiring against the nation's Sunni monarchy in the wake of majority Shia protests. 

"The dictatorship in Bahrain has held me for five hours now and the police have taken my passport," Aslan Rasmussen tweeted on Wednesday. 

"It's obviously too dangerous for a Danish MP to visit another Danish citizen in prison. What are they hiding?" he added. 

GCHR, which was founded by Khawaja, said Dooley was also denied entry into Bahrain, which will host this season's second Formula One Grand Prix race on Sunday.

In a Facebook post including a picture of himself and Dooley holding a photo of the activist with the inscription "Free Abdulhadi", Lars Rasmussen said the detainee was "seriously ill". 

"We are here to pressure the authorities and to show that we will not forget Khawaja," he said. 

The two attempted to visit Khawaja on his 57th birthday.

The Danish foreign ministry said it was following the situation "closely and visiting him regularly in prison". 

Bahrain's government has rolled out a brutal crackdown on opposition in the country, following popular protests in 2011 during the Arab Spring.

Many of the demonstrators were part of Bahrain's disenfranchised Shia majority who continue to demand reforms and respect for human rights. 

Human rights organisations repeatedly accuse the oil-rich Gulf country of suppressing all forms of opposition. Earlier this week, Bahrain said it would "hunt down" online dissidents, including those abroad.

Agencies contributed to this report.