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Bahraini activist granted asylum in Britain

Bahraini activist granted asylum in Britain
A Bahraini blogger and human rights activist, Ali Abduleman, says he has been granted political asylum in the UK after emerging from hiding after two years.

Ali Abduleman, who resurfaced in London, said he was “forced into hiding because of the brutal regime we have in Bahrain.”

The former IT specialist, who founded a prominent online blog in 1998, did not go into details of his life in hiding so as not to endanger his family who were are still in Bahrain, he told the IB Times UK at the Oslo Freedom Forum in London.

However, Thor Halvorssen, the president of the Human Rights Foundation and founder of the Oslo Freedom Forum, described Ali’s spectacular escape route to the UK, which involved being smuggled out of Bahrain to Saudi Arabia in the secret compartment of a car, from where he made it to Kuwait, sailed to Iraq with the help of fishermen, from where he flew to London.

I have to thank Great Britain which gave me asylum very fast, but I request they put more pressure on the regime in Bahrain. Supporting such a regime is not helping to solve the issue, just creating problems,” Ali said.

He also described spy software, used by the Bahraini government to spy on dissidents, as produced by UK company Gamma International.

“More than 16 tweeps (Twitter followers) have been arrested in Bahrain with the use of Gamma tools because of their activities,” he said.

The UK campaigning group Privacy International has asked HM Revenue and Customs, the government department which overseas exports, to investigate Gamma International’s breach of the export control regime last November.

Bahraini protesters hold up placards and wave the national flag during an anti-government protests in the village of Jidhafs, west of Manama, on May 10, 2013. (AFP Photo)

Ali was first arrested in 2005 on charges that included inciting hatred against the regime and publishing false information. He was released but was arrested again in September 2010 along with 22 other activists as part of a government crackdown on protestors.

Authorities accused him of seeking to topple the “political regime through illegal means ” and of being part of a “terrorist network”. Britain’s Home Office doesn't comment on individual asylum applications but the Bahraini interior ministry denied that Ali had been arrested because of his political views but because of his “involvement with senior members of a terrorist network.”  

After his arrest, the next his family heard of him was a news story from a government news agency that reported he was being questioned and had been receiving funding from a London-based ‘terror mastermind.’

Ali says he was routinely tortured while in jail. However, in a bizarre paradox, just as the pro-democracy protests erupted onto the streets in February 2011 he was pardoned by King Hamad and the day after his release was taking part in the protests at Manama’s Pearl Roundabout, which has been dubbed Bahrain's ‘Tahrir Square.’

When a few days later police raided his house Ali decided to go into hiding, this was the last time he saw his wife and children.

“I feel pain because I am not in my homeland. I did not choose this. I did not want this, ” he told Reuters on the sidelines of the London conference.