Bahrain crown prince declines royal wedding invite

LONDON Sun Apr 24, 2011 1:42pm EDT

Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain, speaks during a special session addressing peace in the Middle East at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York September 21, 2010. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, Crown Prince of Bahrain, speaks during a special session addressing peace in the Middle East at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York September 21, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Lucas Jackson

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LONDON (Reuters) - Bahrain's crown prince said he would not attend Britain's royal wedding on April 29 because of continuing unrest in his Gulf Arab kingdom, defusing a potentially embarrassing row over his invitation.

Human rights campaigners criticising Bahrain's fierce security crackdown on anti-government protesters called on Britain's royal family to withdraw the wedding invite sent to Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa.

The British government has also called on Bahrain to respect human rights, urging it last week to investigate reports of deaths in custody, torture and denial of medical treatment.

The crown prince said he had decided with "deep regret" to decline the invitation to the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton, in a letter sent to William's father Prince Charles, heir to the British throne.

Details of the letter were released by a spokesman for the crown prince, who was one of 1,900 guests invited to the wedding at Westminster Abbey in London.

In the letter, the crowd prince said the decision had been "left for as long as possible in the sincere hope that ongoing events -- resulting from recent unrest in the Kingdom of Bahrain -- might have improved, leaving me able to join the celebrations of the House of Windsor and the family of Miss Middleton, without being overshadowed by issues in Bahrain."

Criticism of his invitation in British media had "fundamentally misrepresented my own views, outlook and position on recent events (in Bahrain)," he said.

The media reports had "clearly sought to involve my potential attendance as a political proxy for wider matters involving Bahrain," he added.

Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, had criticised the crown prince's invitation, which was confirmed on Saturday.

"Is this a reward to our ruling family for the crimes they committed? We were waiting for a tough reaction from the UK, and we see this when people's blood has not even dried," Rajab said.

British human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell had said the invite was a "massive misjudgement" by Britain's royal family.

Last month, Bahrain crushed mainly Shi'ite protests by declaring martial law, inviting in troops from Sunni neighbours such as Saudi Arabia and arresting hundreds of people, many of them activists or doctors.

Hundreds have been sacked from government jobs, rights and opposition groups say. Bahrain says it has targeted only those who committed crimes during the unrest in March.

(Additional reporting by Gulf bureau; Editing by Maria Golovnina)

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