From daily The Guardian in Britain:
Tory fundraising party: Bahrain lobbyist sat with defence secretary
Melanie Newman, Nick Mathiason and Tom Warren
Tuesday 1 July 2014 19.34 BST
Nineteen lobbyists and public relations specialists were present at the summer party including Paddy Gillford (the Earl of Clanwilliam), who represents the government of Bahrain and who headed one of the more prominent tables, hosting defence secretary Philip Hammond.
The table plan for the event obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and the Guardian shows there were four additional tables hosted by key members of staff from lobbying and public relations companies, including a firm that represents Russian businessmen.
Many other public relations staff were hosted on other tables, including a partner at Bell Pottinger, a communications and lobbying firm, which represents Bahrain‘s economic development board. She was placed on the same table as justice secretary Chris Grayling.
There is no suggestion that any representatives from these public relations companies discussed their clients or tried to influence policy at the event. But their proximity to senior government figures will raise questions about disclosure rules surrounding meetings with ministers.
If lobbyists or PR representatives meet ministers on a one-to-one basis or in their offices, the ministers have to declare those meetings. When a minister attends a reception or other large event in their official capacity this has to be disclosed, but there is no requirement to list individuals met on these occasions. The disclosure rules do not extend to party fundraising events or conferences.
The seating plan shows that intended guests on the table included Afnan Al-Shuaiby, chief executive of the Arab-British chamber of Commerce whose job includes fostering UK-Bahrain trade links and Conor Burns, chair of the UK-Bahrain all-party parliamentary group. At the time of the ball, Bahrain was facing criticism of its human rights record.
Hammond had also just returned from an “operational visit” to the Gulf state. Gillford was asked whether he represented Bahrain’s interests at the event, or discussed any issues affecting any of his firm’s clients. He declined to comment.
The documents obtained by the Bureau show Bell Pottinger, which has donated £66,980 to the Conservatives, also sponsored a table. Chief executive, James Henderson and the firm’s communications director were listed as sitting on the table. Patsy Baker, a partner from Bell Pottinger is also listed on the documents as sitting on another table.
Cameron forced to explain defence secretary’s encounter with Bahrain lobbyist at fundraising party: here.
On June 23, Abdulla Jaffar, a Bahraini-American and Virginia native was released on bail pending trial. Abdulla had been held in prison for over three months as his trial was repeatedly postponed due to lack of witnesses or evidence. During his imprisonment, he was denied medical care though he was suffering from wounds sustained during his arrest and a throat infection that he developed while in prison. Abdulla is a high school student who, as a result of his prolonged detention, was forced to miss his final exams and will be required to repeat an entire year of his schooling: here.
Freedom for the Bahrain 13: here.