MP’s Racially Aggravated Public Order Offence
A Conservative Member of Parliament (MP), Bob Stewart, has been found guilty of a racially aggravated public order offence after a verbal altercation with an activist.
The incident took place on December 14 last year outside the Foreign Office’s Lancaster House in London, where the politician was attending an event to mark the National Day of Bahrain.
Verbal Abuse Directed at Activist
During the confrontation, the 74-year-old MP for Beckenham reportedly told Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, an activist, to ‘go back to Bahrain.’
He further commented, ‘you’re taking money off my country, go away,’ during the exchange. Mr. Alwadaei, who had been beaten and tortured in Bahrain during the Arab Spring, expressed his fear of returning to Bahrain, claiming he would face violence and torture if he did so.
Allegations of Financial Ties to Bahrain
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei accused Stewart of having undertaken trips to Bahrain that were funded by the Bahraini regime.
He contended that Stewart’s comments made him feel ‘not safe,’ ‘dehumanized,’ and ‘not welcomed in the UK.’
Chief Magistrate’s Verdict
Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring delivered the verdict at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, which found Stewart guilty of a racially aggravated public order offence.
The MP was fined £600, and with additional legal costs, the total penalty amounted to £1,435. It was noted that Stewart would not be sentenced to jail.
Exchange Captured on Video
Footage of the incident, presented in court, depicted Alwadaei questioning Mr. Stewart’s ties to the Bahraini regime and the MP’s dismissive and abrasive responses.
The prosecution argued that the words used by Mr. Stewart were abusive and demonstrated racial hostility.
While it was not suggested that he was motivated by racial hostility, the context of his comments implied racial aggravation.
In his statement to the police, Stewart denied that his comments were racist. He expressed regret and apologized if anyone had been offended by his remarks.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, in his testimony at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, recounted his background and experiences, including being abused and tortured in Bahrain during the Arab Spring. He detailed his decision to seek asylum in the UK after feeling unsafe in Bahrain.
Allegations of Stewart’s Support for Bahrain
Alwadaei explained that his intention during the confrontation was to exercise his right to peaceful protest.
He asserted that he had witnessed Stewart speaking in defense of the Bahraini regime in Parliament and had investigated Stewart’s financial records, suggesting that the MP had benefited from trips to Bahrain financed by the Bahraini government.
Alwadaei described how Stewart’s remarks had made him feel ‘dehumanized’ and ‘not wanted in the UK,’ leading to a sense of insecurity and discomfort.
Stewart, however, denied the charges of racially aggravated harassment and threatening behavior.
Verdict: Racially Aggravated Public Order Offence
Despite the denial, Chief Magistrate Paul Goldspring found Bob Stewart guilty of a racially aggravated public order offence, concluding the legal proceedings surrounding the incident.