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Middle East
Egypt denies entry to Bahraini activist
Maryam al-Khawaja has been refused entry by airport security officials for "security reasons".
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2012 19:31
Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, Maryam's father, is serving a life sentence for "plotting against the state" [EPA]

A leading Bahraini opposition activist has said she had been refused entry to Egypt at Cairo airport.

Maryam al-Khawaja, the Denmark-based international spokesperson for the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said she had hoped to enter Egypt for a few hours to see friends on a stopover while flying to South Africa.

She flew straight back to Copenhagen after arriving in Cairo on Sunday, having been denied entry "for security reasons".

An Egyptian airport official and a security source, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, said Khawaja's name was on a list of people to be denied entry at the airport.

"The ban is based on a memorandum from the national security authorities," the security source said.

Khawaja said officials at Cairo airport first stamped her passport but then cancelled her visa after realising she was a Bahraini activist.

"They said I wouldn't be allowed in but wouldn't tell me why," she told the Reuters news agency by telephone shortly before flying out of Cairo on Sunday evening.

Barred entry

Before the revolutions, Arab governments often co-operated to monitor and restrict the movements of opposition politicians and activists. Khawaja's case suggested at least some of that co-operation continues even with newly elected democratic governments.

 

"We've been having problems with Bahraini activists getting into Egypt for years. We thought with the revolution it would change, but it hasn't," Khawaja said.

She said she had been able to enter Egypt several times since Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president, stepped down in February 2011, but Egyptian security officials only allowed her entry earlier this year after intervention from her lawyer.

Khawaja was one of the leading figures of the pro-democracy movement that was crushed by Bahrain's rulers in March last year.

She is based in Denmark and, like her father, has joint Bahraini and Danish citizenship.

Human right abuses

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, 52, who was arrested a month after the crackdown, is serving a life sentence in Bahrain handed down for plotting against the state.

He ended a 110-day hunger strike in jail in May. Both the United Nations and international human rights watchdogs have called for his release.

Khawaja's other daughter Zainab was released in Bahrain in May, after serving a one-month jail sentence on charges of attacking a policewoman at a demonstration.

Bahrain, a small but strategic Gulf state which is the home base of the US Fifth Fleet, came under strong international criticism over last year's crackdown, which was backed by troops from its Gulf neighbours.

An international panel commissioned by King Hamad to probe the government's crackdown found that excessive force and torture were used against protesters and detainees.

Amnesty International estimates that 60 people have been killed since the protests broke out in February last year.

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Source:
Agencies
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