Bahrain opposition leader accuses Prince Charles of ‘whitewashing’ regime abuses

File photo: Britain's Prince Charles and his wife Camilla during a visit to Manama, Bahrain, February 25, 2007. © Hamad Mohammed
A Bahraini opposition leader has accused Prince Charles of ‘whitewashing’ the country’s crackdown on dissent during a recent visit, in which the heir to the throne opened a controversial new military base.

Ebrahim Sharif of the Waad Party told AP he hopes the Prince of Wales raised human rights issues with the Gulf kingdom’s rulers during his visit.

The government may listen,” he said. “They need friends.

Sharif has been arrested on multiple occasions and claims to have been tortured by Bahraini authorities.

Prince Charles is concluding his trip to the Gulf island state with his wife, Camilla, where he opened a controversial new military base, despite criticism of the regime’s human rights record.

The base represents the first permanent military presence in the kingdom since 1971, and was built using mostly Bahraini cash. It will be used by Britain’s Royal Navy alongside the US’ own large naval base.

Controversial efforts to expand a Royal Navy base on the island are also well underway.

The Bahraini royal family enjoys a close relationship with the British monarchy that spans several decades.

The two royal households have continued to develop ties, even in the wake of public criticism over Bahrain’s treatment of protesters during the 2011 Arab Spring. King Hamad even sat next to Queen Elizabeth II at her 90th birthday party in Windsor this year.

London has been accused of ‘whitewashing’ Bahrain’s record in the United Nations, having never condemned the country’s human rights abuses.

Bahrain came under international scrutiny during the Arab Spring when it used lethal force to crush protests demanding greater political power by the country’s Shia majority.

Since then, the Bahraini authorities have imprisoned and forced into exile key activists involved in the protests.

Sharif said Bahrain’s opposition was both “flexible and realistic,” only calling for a power-sharing arrangement with the monarchy.

The ruling family responded, however, with travel bans and harassment, he said.

He also warned that Bahrain’s financial instability, made worse by the low price of oil, could make the state of the country even worse.

Without reform, we are in a very bad situation,” he said.