Conservative MP Bob Stewart has said he made “a mistake” after he was caught on video telling a human rights activist to “go back to Bahrain”.
In video footage obtained by Sky News, Sayed Alwadaei, the director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird), confronts the veteran Tory MP outside a reception hosted by the Bahraini embassy.
“How much did you sell yourself to the Bahraini regime?” Mr Alwadaei asks, referring to a trip paid for by the Bahraini government ahead of its elections.
In response, Mr Stewart says: “Get stuffed. Bahrain’s a great place. End of.”
Mr Alwadaei adds: “You were paid by them recently.”
Mr Stewart replies: “Go away, I hate you. You make a lot of fuss. Go back to Bahrain.”
Asked “how much did you sell yourself to the Bahraini regime” once more by Mr Alwadaei, Mr Stewart says: “I didn’t, now you shut up you stupid man.”
When Mr Alwadaei asks again, “how much”, Mr Stewart replies: “You’re taking money off my country, go away!”
Mr Stewart told Sky News he is “not racist”.
Admitting the footage was of himself, the MP for Beckenham told Sky News: “I was goaded into a response, a mistake on my part. I’m not [taking money], never have been.”
Mr Stewart added: “It’s a lovely country, I’m chair of the All Party Country Group. I’ve watched it become an extremely nice place to live.”
He also stressed that he had “never taken a personal penny” from the authorities in Bahrain for his role as chair of the APPG.
Mr Stewart continued: “I’m not racist, it really hurts, I lived in the middle east.”
‘I don’t believe I would have been told to ‘go back’ if it weren’t for the colour of my skin’
The MP for Beckenham is a former British Army officer who was stationed in Bahrain in 1969.
Parliamentary records show Mr Stewart registered flights, accommodation and meals worth £5,349 during a four-day trip to Bahrain in November last year paid for by its ministry of foreign affairs.
A separate entry covered by the Bahraini government shows another trip to visit an air show and meet its foreign minister being worth £1,245.56.
Mr Alwadaei has complained to the Parliamentary Commission for Standards and Chairman of the Conservative Party, Nadhim Zahawi, about Mr Stewart’s conduct.
He is also seeking legal advice to submit a complaint before the police.
“I don’t believe I would have been told to ‘go back’ to the country that violently tortured me if it weren’t for the colour of my skin,” he said in a statement.
“No one should be subjected to racial abuse, particularly for holding an MP to account for accepting lavish gifts from one of the world’s most repressive regimes.
“Stewart is acting as a mouthpiece by publicly denying its notorious and extensively documented human rights abuses-abuses which have been condemned by the United Nations.”
Mr Alwadaei says he was imprisoned and tortured for taking part in a pro-democracy uprising in 2011 and that after being sentenced he sought political asylum in the UK in 2012.
He says his Bahraini citizenship was revoked after a protest against King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s presence at the Royal Windsor horse show in 2013.
A Conservative party spokesperson said: “We have an established code of conduct and formal processes where complaints can be made in confidence. This process is rightly confidential.”