UK Conservative MP Bob Stewart charged with racially abusing Bahrain human rights activist

UK Conservative MP Bob Stewart charged with racially abusing Bahrain human rights activist
After an alleged altercation with a Bahrain human rights activist last year, MP Bob Stewart has been formally charged with 'racially aggravated' abuse.
2 min read
06 June, 2023
British MP and former army officer Bob Stewart apologised for the incident but denied any racist intent [Getty]

A British Conservative MP was charged on Monday with racially abusing a human rights activist after he allegedly told him to "go back to Bahrain".

Bob Stewart, who has been the MP for the South London seat of Beckenham since 2010, is accused of "using threatening or abusive words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour" in an offence that was "racially aggravated", Metropolitan Police said in a statement.

The 73-year-old also faces additional charges of "using threatening or abusive words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress", according to the statement.

The charges relate to an alleged incident outside a Bahrain-related event that took place last year at the Foreign Office’s Lancaster House in Central London.

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Stewart was confronted by the Bahraini dissident Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, who reportedly asked the MP: "For how much did you sell yourself to the Bahrain regime?"

Standing across the street, in front of a large group of people, Stewart allegedly shouted: "Get stuffed, Bahrain is a great place … end of …", as well as "you’re taking money off my country … go away" and, finally, "go back to Bahrain". The police allegedly have video evidence of the event.

Alwadaei lives in exile in the UK, after being allegedly tortured in the Gulf state. 

The UK’s ruling Conservative Party has controversially decided not to withdraw the whip from Stewart, despite the charges.

Stewart has visited Bahrain as a guest of the country’s foreign ministry twice since 2021, but the former British Army officer has denied taking money from Manama.

He has also apologised for the incident, but denied any racist intent, claiming that he has "so many good Bahraini friends". 

Bilateral trade between the UK and Bahrain was worth around £3.1 billion as of 2022 but the country is considered by many NGOs and civil organisations as serious violator of human rights.

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Bahrain faced prolonged protests against the ruling monarchy in 2011, as part of the wider phenomenon of the so-called Arab Spring, until the protests were crushed by the country's rulers with military intervention from Saudi Arabia.

In February of this year, human rights groups accused the British government of "dangerously whitewashing" human rights in Bahrain and effectively peddling propaganda on behalf of the Gulf state's absolute monarchy.

Stewart will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 5 July.