Police investigate after Tory MP Bob Stewart tells activist to ‘go back to Bahrain’

Scotland Yard is investigating an allegation of racial abuse after Bob Stewart, the Tory MP, told an activist to “go back to Bahrain” during an angry confrontation.

The Metropolitan Police said officers had opened a case after the complaint from Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, who says he is living in exile after being tortured in the Gulf state.

Mr Stewart, the MP for Beckenham, London, apologised and denied his comments were racist. He claimed he was suggesting that the activist should be campaigning in Bahrain.

Video footage shows Mr Stewart telling Mr Alwadaei that he is “taking money off my country” as he challenged the MP on his ties with the nation.

Mr 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.”

The Met confirmed it had received a report “from a man alleging he had been verbally racially abused” outside the Foreign Office’s Lancaster House on Dec 14. “Officers from Westminster CID are investigating,” a statement said.

Mr Stewart has been approached again for comment.

‘Incident of racist abuse’

Mr Alwadaei, the director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, alleged that the comments amounted to racial abuse and also reported the incident to the Conservative Party.

He had challenged the MP over donations from the Bahraini government, asking: “How much did you sell yourself to the Bahraini regime?”

Mr Stewart responded: “I didn’t. Now you shut up, you stupid man… You’re taking money off my country, go away.”

Mr Alwadaei’s complaint to police described 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 Mr 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.

Mr Alwadaei, 36, says he was injured by the Bahraini police, subsequently imprisoned and tortured, and sentenced by a military court over his participation.

‘Goaded into reaction’

Mr Stewart, 73, is the chair of the all-parliamentary group on Bahrain and has accepted paid-for trips from the Gulf state.

Commenting on the incident, the MP said: “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.”

Mr 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, which advises King Hamad, but no opposition candidates were permitted to stand and Amnesty International warned that the polls would take part in an “environment of political repression”.

Parliamentary records show that Mr 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 was worth £1,245.56.

Mr Alwadaei wrote in a complaint to Nadhim Zahawi, the Tory chairman, that the MP’s comments violated the party’s code of conduct on “minimum standards of behaviour”.

He also wrote a complaint to Kathryn Stone, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, alleging that Mr Stewart’s remarks breached the MPs’ code of conduct.

A Conservative Party spokesman said: “We have an established code of conduct and formal processes where complaints can be made in confidence. This process is rightly confidential.”

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