Officials in Bahrain have prevented the wife and infant son of a high-profile human rights campaigner from leaving the country to join him in London.
It is the latest example of a crackdown by the Gulf state, which has been criticised by human rights groups for imposing travel bans and arresting its opponents. The travel ban comes only days after human rights campaigner and director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird) Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei was arrested at a protest in London against the Gulf state’s king visiting Downing Street.
Duaa Alwadaei was prevented by Bahraini immigration officers from boarding a London-bound flight on Wednesday. The detention came hours after her husband, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, protested the visit by the king of Bahrain to Downing Street.
Alwadaei claims that during a seven-hour interrogation, a senior official told his wife she was being questioned and subjected to a travel ban because of his work.
According to Mr Alwadaei, a long time exile and critic of the Bahraini regime, his wife was left "terrified" after she was dragged across the floor of the airport before being subjected to a seven-hour long interrogation. Officials then informed her Ms Alwadaei she was being placed under a 'travel ban' because of her husband's work.
Ms Alwadaei was also reportedly beaten by two female police officers and was threatened with further detention if she spoke out over her treatment.
Shortly prior his wife's interrogation, numerous threats were made on social media against Alwadaei and his family.
The Bahraini embassy in London released the following statement: "Upon her departure at Bahrain's airport to her London destination, Mrs Alwadaei was briefly detained for questioning, searched and released. At no time was she abused or mistreated by authorities. It bears noting that the office of the ombudsman is available to anyone who feels their rights have been abused and will open an investigation into matters brought to their attention."
Nick McGeehan, Bahrain researcher at Human Rights Watch said: "This is a contemptible and cowardly attempt on the part of the Bahraini authorities to take retribution against the family of a prominent UK-based Bahraini exile and activist who protested against the king of Bahrain's visit to see the Queen and the prime minister."
Maya Foa, a director of human rights group Reprieve, said: "Reprieve is seriously concerned at Bahrain's reprisals against Sayed's family for a peaceful protest in London. Freedom of expression might be banned in Bahrain, but the British government cannot allow Bahrain to punish people who demonstrate in the UK against human rights abuses such as torture and executions. Duaa and her baby must be allowed to leave Bahrain immediately and return to their home in London with Sayed."
Bahrain, which is dominated by the ruling Al Khalifa family, has faced international censure for a rights crackdown that has seen the arrest of opposition figures, the stripping of citizenship from the country’s highest Shia religious authority, Sheikh Isa Qassim, and the dissolution of the main opposition party, al-Wefaq.
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