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10 Aug, 2013 00:10

Bahraini govt ‘blocks’ activist from traveling home to Gulf kingdom

Bahraini govt ‘blocks’ activist from traveling home to Gulf kingdom

A prominent Bahraini activist was prevented from boarding a British Airways flight from Denmark ahead of major protests expected to occur in her home country next Wednesday. She says the Bahraini government denied her from traveling.

“I was blocked at the boarding and told to check with the counter because there was a problem. The lady called the office in London who told her that there was a denied boarding message as a decision from the Bahraini government,” Maryam Al-Khwaja told the International Business Times.

Like all airlines, we are required to comply with requests from individual government authorities,” a BA spokesperson told the news website.   

The activist asked the airline to explain why the ban had been issued, but was not initially given a reason.

“I've put in a request and they're going to get back to me. I told them to move as fast as possible because if I don't receive a response I'll be consulting a lawyer on the possibility of going to court,” she said.

Mass protests are scheduled to take place in Bahrain on August 14 – the country’s Independence Day.  

King Hamad, whose Gulf kingdom has been rocked by Shiite-led protests since 2011, banned protests in Manama on Wednesday in anticipation of the rallies.

The royal decree modifies the law to “ban organizing protests, rallies, gatherings or sit-ins in Manama, with the exception of sit-ins outside [offices of] international organizations” which have been approved by police.

Bahrainis take part in a protest to demand more rights in the village of Bilad al-Qadeem, in a suburb of Manama, on June 15, 2013 (AFP Photo / Pool)

Al-Khwaja said that Bahrain’s government wants “no witnesses to its current and anticipated future violations,” according to a statement from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BHCR).

She later tweeted, “What I want to know is what the regime is so afraid of that they [would] issue a ban preventing me from traveling to Bahrain.”

The activist was due to visit her father and her sister, who are currently imprisoned in Bahrain for their roles in pro-democracy protests.

Al-Khawaja, who holds dual Bahraini-Danish citizenship but has not renewed her Bahraini passport, is acting president of the BHCR.

Her predecessor Nabeel Rajab, the organization’s official president and prominent human rights activist, is currently serving a prison sentence. He was initially arrested for criticizing the prime minister on Twitter in 2012 and was later convicted of disturbing public order, calling for marches without giving prior notification, and participating in illegal gatherings.

Bahrain, which hosts the US Fifth fleet, has made a record 221 entry-denials since February 14, 2011, according to Bahrain Watch. Those barred from entering the country include foreign journalists, NGO members, trade unionists, politicians, aid workers, and activists.