Sophie Wessex urged to return ‘bloodstained’ jewels

THE Countess of Wessex came under mounting pressure yesterday to sell the gems she received from Bahrain’s royal family and donate the proceeds to victims of the hardline regime.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who has supported the pro-democracy movement in Bahrain, called on the countess, who is married to Prince Edward, to apologise for “colluding” with the regime and return the “bloodstained gifts”.

Sophie Wessex received two suites of jewels as presents during a visit to the Arab state, whose rulers violently crushed anti-government protests last year.

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According to a list of royal gifts from Buckingham Palace, they were given to her by King Hamad Al-Khalifa and prime minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa during an official visit in December.

“Given the bloody repression of peaceful protests by the King of Bahrain, the Foreign Secretary William Hague should have never authorised Edward and Sophie to visit the country – let alone accept these extravagant gifts,” said Tatchell.

“Clearly, the Bahraini royals were using the visit by the Wessexes as a PR exercise in a bid to show that they still have international support and allies. Britain should have nothing to do with the tyranny in Bahrain. It should be isolated as a pariah state.

“William Hague and the Earl and Countess of Wessex should apologise for colluding with the Bahraini regime and return these bloodstained gifts.”

Denis MacShane, the former Foreign Office minister, has written to Hague, asking for more attention to be paid to the repression of human rights by the Bahraini regime.

He also accused the UK of turning a “blind eye” to the “repression, imprisonment, torture and beatings-up” that occur under the regime.

He added: “Delicate political situations such as this require a light hand, but if we do not take a stand in requiring allies to respect human rights, we risk damaging our own credibility as well as impeding the inevitable march of democratic values across the authoritarian world.”

Earlier he said: “Given the appalling suffering and repression of the Bahraini people, it would be a fitting gesture for the Countess of Wessex to auction these trinkets and distribute the proceeds to the victims of the regime.”

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A report published in November criticised the Bahraini authorities’ use of torture and “excessive force” in the suppression of the unrest in February and March, in which more than 40 people died.