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PSNI denies giving public order training to six Bahraini officers

By Allan Preston

The PSNI has denied teaching police officers from Bahrain to gather intelligence on protesters, following claims that the authorities in the Gulf kingdom have targeted activists for execution.

The human rights organisation Reprieve issued a highly critical statement yesterday, saying the PSNI hosted six Bahraini officers in August 2015, sharing its expertise on gathering intelligence ahead of parades.

Reprieve alleged the Bahraini delegation followed the PSNI's Crimson Commander at a Royal Black Preceptory parade and the Henry Joy McCracken march in Belfast.

It added that this was followed by training sessions in the use of water cannons, dog handling and public order tactics.

The trip was funded by the Foreign Office with support from the InvestNI body NI-CO (Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas).

A week before the delegation arrived, Reprieve said the Bahraini officers received emails describing the situation in Northern Ireland as "volatile," and that nine PSNI officers had been injured in rioting.

Reprieve claimed the training was prepared by PSNI officers during a week-long "scoping visit" to Bahrain over April-May 2015, where they assessed Bahrain's public order systems.

Maya Foa, a director of Reprieve, said the UK Government initially "covered up" the project.

"Bahrain is notorious for arresting, torturing and sentencing to death people involved in protests - such as Mohammed Ramadan, a father of three who is held on death row and faces execution at any moment," she commented.

"By training Bahrain's police how to gather intelligence on protesters, there is a serious risk that Britain is helping them arrest and execute people who are guilty of nothing more than calling for reform.

"It is scandalous that the Government has sought to sweep this under the carpet," she added.

The PSNI's Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd insisted yesterday the Bahraini police were on a study visit to observe "best practice in human rights-based public order policing". He said the delegation observed public order events, followed by presentations on PSNI public order policing.

He added: "At no time did the PSNI undertake any form of training with the officers."

A Foreign Office spokesman said the trip was "supporting Bahraini-led reform through a package of technical assistance".

He continued, commenting that "we believe it is not good enough to criticise countries from the sideline".

"The study visit in August 2015 allowed members of the Bahraini police to observe how the PSNI manages public order issues in a human rights compliant manner," the spokesman added.

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