A campaigner who says he was tortured in Bahrain has made a police complaint after Conservative MP Bob Stewart told him to “go back to Bahrain” during a confrontation.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, alleges the comments amounted to racial abuse and has also reported the incident to the Tory party.
But the MP for Beckhenham, in London, apologised and denied his comments were racist, saying his intention was to suggest the activist should be campaigning in Bahrain.
Video footage shows Stewart telling Alwadaei that he is “taking money off my country” as he challenged the MP on his ties to the gulf state.
Stewart told him: “Get stuffed. Bahrain is a great place, end of.
“Go away, I hate you. You make a lot of fuss, go back to Bahrain.”
“Shut up you stupid man”
Alwadaei challenged the MP over donations from the Bahraini government, asking “how much did you sell yourself to the Bahraini regime” as the confrontation continued.
Stewart responded: “I didn’t, now you shut up you stupid man.”
“You’re taking money off my country, go away,” he added, with a dismissive wave of his hand.
Alwadaei’s complaint to the police describes it as an “incident of racist abuse” that took place outside the Foreign Office’s Lancaster House after an event hosted by the Bahraini embassy on Wednesday.
In a statement to the media, he added: “I don’t believe I would have been told to ‘go back’ to the country that violently tortured me if it weren’t for the colour of my skin.
“No-one should be subjected to racial abuse, particularly for holding an MP to account for accepting lavish gifts from one of the world’s most repressive regimes.
“Stewart is acting as a mouthpiece by publicly denying its notorious and extensively documented human rights abuses — abuses which have been condemned by the United Nations.”
Giving Alwadaei an award for his campaigning in 2020, the Index on Censorship described him as having undertaken “vital” work since fleeing Bahrain nine years earlier for taking part in anti-government protests.
Alwadaei, 36, says he was injured by the Bahraini police and subsequently imprisoned and tortured, and sentenced by a military court over his participation.
Stewart, 73, is the chair of the all-parliamentary group on Bahrain and has accepted paid-for trips from the gulf state.
He told the PA news agency: “My mistake was to actually be goaded into reaction, and I apologise for that. I also apologise if anybody thinks I was being racist – I was not.
“I meant go back to Bahrain, which is a perfectly safe place, and protest there.
“If anyone thinks I’ve been racist I honestly didn’t mean to be, and I apologise if they think that, and I wasn’t.”
Stewart, a former British Army officer who was stationed in Bahrain in 1969 and has represented Beckenham since 2010, praised the gulf state as a “wonderful place to live”, adding: “You can worship anything you like in Bahrain – you can worship a tree.”
Last month, Bahrainis took part in elections for the lower house of parliament that advises King Hamad, but no opposition candidates were permitted to stand and Amnesty International warned the polls would take part in an “environment of political repression”.
Parliamentary records show Stewart registered flights, accommodation and meals worth £5,349 during a four-day trip to Bahrain in November last year paid for by its ministry of foreign affairs.
A separate entry covered by the Bahraini government shows another trip to visit an air show and meet its foreign minister being worth £1,245.56.
Alwadaei wrote in a complaint to Tory party chairman Nadhim Zahawi saying the MP’s comments violated the party’s code of conduct on “minimum standards of behaviour”.
He also wrote a complaint to Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Kathryn Stone, alleging Stewart’s remarks breached the MPs’ code of conduct.
A Conservative Party spokesman: “We have an established code of conduct and formal processes where complaints can be made in confidence. This process is rightly confidential.”