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Bahrain International Airport © 2007 Reuters

(Beirut) – Bahraini authorities denied an entry visa this morning to a Human Rights Watch researcher.

In recent years, Bahrain has denied entry to scores of human rights advocates and critical journalists, as well as the United Nations special rapporteur on torture and jailed Bahraini rights defenders.

“Bahrain has yet again shown its intolerance of human rights advocates,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Omar Shakir, an American citizen, arrived at Manama Airport in the afternoon of May 9 and identified himself to border authorities as Human Rights Watch’s researcher for Israel and Palestine, and indicated that he had come to hold meetings on the margins of an assembly convened by FIFA, the world football federation.

Bahrain allows US passport-holders to apply for entry visas upon arrival at the airport. However, Bahraini authorities at the airport informed Shakir that a decision had been made by “security” that he was “not welcome” and ordered him to board a departing flight today.

Shakir had come to urge FIFA decision-makers to adopt a resolution instructing FIFA’s Israeli affiliate, the Israel Football Association, to stop sponsoring games in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, activities which contribute to serious human rights violations

A German journalist who had expressed criticism of Bahraini leaders was also denied entry to Bahrain this week, even though he had FIFA accreditation, according to news reports.

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