Tory MP Bob Stewart showed “racial hostility” towards a protester by telling him to “go back to Bahrain” during a demonstration outside a Foreign Office building, a court has been told.
The Metropolitan Police launched an investigation into the incident after a complaint was made by activist Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, who has said he was living in exile after being tortured in the Gulf state.
The MP for Beckenham in south east London is also said to have told the protester on 14 December last year to “get stuffed”, that he was “taking money off my country” and “go away, I hate you”, after Mr Alwadaei shouted at him: “Bob Stewart, for how much did you sell yourself to the Bahraini regime?”
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Stewart is appearing at Westminster Magistrates Court facing a charge of a racially aggravated public order offence and another for using threatening or abusive words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress – both of which he denies.
Footage played to the court room on Friday also showed the MP saying: “Now shut up, you stupid man.”
The former Army officer, who was stationed in Bahrain in 1969, has described himself as a “friend” of the country.
His register of interests shows two trips paid for by the Bahraini government – one for a four-day visit to the state and another to visit an air show to meet a foreign minister – totalling more than £6,000.
During the one-day trial, Mr Alwadaei alleged that Bahrain was “corrupt” and a “human rights violator”, and said it was his right to protest against the MP’s involvement with the state.
Asked how he felt after the incident, the activist said: “I feel that I was dehumanised, like I was someone who is not welcomed in the UK.
“Because of my skin colour, because of where I came from, he feels I am taking money from his country.”
Mr Alwadaei also claimed that if he returned to Bahrain, he would “undoubtedly be killed and tortured”.
Prosecutor Paul Jarvis said Mr Stewart had “demonstrated racial hostility towards Mr Alwadaei by way of his comments”, and while he was “not motivated by racial hostility”, he had demonstrated it.
In response to the accusation, the MP said it was “absurd” and “totally unfair”, stating he was “not a racist”.
He added: “My life has been, I don’t want to say destroyed, but I am deeply hurt at having to appear in a court like this.”
The 74-year-old politician told the court he had “no idea” who Mr Alwadaei was when the incident occurred and that he used the word “hate” because of what the protester was saying.
Stewart continued: “‘Go back to Bahrain’ meant why don’t you go back to Bahrain and make your point there?”
‘Honour at stake’
Asked if he accused Mr Alwadaei of taking money from the UK, the MP said: “I made the assumption he too was living in this country and was benefiting from living in this country.
“I certainly didn’t mean he was a freeloader.”
But he defended his reaction to the protester, telling the court: “He was saying that I was corrupt and that I had taken money. My honour was at stake in front of a large number of ambassadors.
“It upset me and I thought it was extremely offensive.”
The case continues.