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EU human rights delegation barred from Bahrain

Bahraini authorities have barred a Danish parliamentarian and an Irish human rights activist, who were scheduled to meet Bahraini activists, from entering Manama yesterday, according to Al-Khaleej Online.

Danish MP Aslan Rasmon and Irish activist Brian Dooley had planned to meet with imprisoned Bahraini human rights activists, including former president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights Abdul Hadi Al-Khawaja, to highlight the reality of civil liberties in the kingdom.

A spokesman for the Bahraini government said that the delegation was refused after they failed to obtain a visa to enter the country. The European delegates condemned the decision as an attempt to hide what the jailed activists could reveal about their treatment in prison.

"Preventing parliamentarians, human rights groups and journalists from entering Bahrain shows the extent to which the authorities want to hide it," Dooley said in response.

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Al-Khawaja is currently serving a term of life imprisonment after being convicted of terrorist offences for his involvement in peaceful pro-democracy protests in the country in 2011. He has been subjected to physical and sexual torture while in prison, requiring a four-hour operation in a military hospital following injuries to his head. He is regularly held in solitary confinement, one stretch lasting for nearly two months. However, judges have refused to open an investigation into claims of abuse.

His family has also been harassed since his imprisonment, with this daughter, Zainab Al-Khawaja being arrested in 2016 and held for two months for allegedly "insulting" the King of Bahrain.

The Danish government has called on Bahrain several times to release Al-Khawaja, who also has Danish citizenship, or to extradite him to Denmark. The Supreme Judicial Council rejected the request, saying that the law prevented the transfer of "accused and convicted persons to foreign countries". The decision has been criticised by the UN and EU.

The Bahraini authorities have carried out large-scale arrests of journalists over the past few years. According to the watchdog Transparency International's annual report released last month, the Bahraini government has escalated its attacks against freedom of expression and freedom of association and assembly even further in the past year. Bahraini human rights activists face citizenship revocation and arbitrary travel bans.

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