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Bahrain rejects claims implicating prince over torture

AFP, Wednesday 8 Oct 2014
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Bahrain has rejected claims implicating its Prince Nasser bin Hamad al-Khalifa in acts of torture after a British court denied him immunity from prosecution over any such allegations.

A British judge ruled on Tuesday that Prince Nasser, the king's eldest son, could not claim immunity following a court application by a Bahraini who alleges they were tortured as part of a brutal crackdown on anti-government protests in 2011.

"The Kingdom of Bahrain categorically denies these allegations and denies that it has ever sought immunity in the United Kingdom" for the prince, said a statement carried by the official BNA news agency late Tuesday.

The judge's decision "does not open the way for judicial proceedings," it added.

"The Kingdom affirms that these allegations are false and politically motivated and assures that it will press ahead with the reform programme initiated by the king," the statement said.

The decision has no immediate effect on the prince, who is not being prosecuted and considers Britain a home-from-home, but could lead to his arrest if the case is pursued.

Bahrain has been accused by Britain of failing to properly investigate claims of torture by its security services during a crackdown on Shiite-led demonstrations calling for reform in the tiny Gulf state.

Sayed al-Wadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy campaign group, said the decision to lift Nasser's immunity in Britain was "a victory for the people of Bahrain".

Rights groups voiced their anger on Tuesday that the prince had been able to visit France in September without being apprehended.

Bahrain's Sunni regime has frequently been accused of abuses in a crackdown on dissent since it crushed Arab Spring-inspired protests by the Shiite majority in March 2011.

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