The UK Metropolitan Police Service confirmed Monday that they charged a conservative member of the UK’s Parliament (MP), Bob Stewart, with two public order offenses. Stewart is charged with racially-aggravated speech in relation to statements he made at an incident outside of a Bahraini embassy event in 2022.
Police charged Stewart with “[u]sing threatening or abusive words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour” in a racially-aggravated exchange under section 31(1)(c) and (5) of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. Stewart is also charged with “[u]sing threatening or abusive words or behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress” under section 5(1) and (6) of the Public Order Act 1986. Police said that both charges were brought against Stewart in regards to the same incident, so that the court might have “discretion on the racial element.”
In a video circulating online, the MP—who has been in-post since 2010—can be heard saying “get stuffed” and “go back to Bahrain” to the Director of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy Sayed Alwadaei and human rights activists gathered outside of an event at the Bahraini embassy. Stewart is also captured telling a heckler to “shut up you stupid man” and “you’re taking money off my country, go away.” The incident is alleged to have occurred on December 14, 20222 in Belgravia, London.
According to the Guardian, in a follow-up statement, Stewart expressed his apologies for what he had said. Stewart said, “The protesters persistently taunted me by saying I had taken money from Bahrain. That deeply offended me. I certainly have not and told them so repeatedly.” Stewart admitted he fell for the taunts and said, “I am sorry if anyone thought I was being racist in any way…The last thing I meant to be was racist as I have so many good Bahraini friends.” Stewart is a former British army officer who was stationed in Bahrain in the 1960s.
Alwadaei initially filed the complaint shortly after the December 2022 incident. Alwadaei was previously imprisoned and tortured in Bahrain before obtaining political asylum in the UK. He said:
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. No one should be subjected to racist abuse, particularly for holding an MP to account for accepting lavish gifts from one of the world’s most repressive regimes, and then acting as its mouthpiece by publicly denying its notorious and extensively documented human rights abuses which have been condemned by the United Nations.
Stewart is scheduled to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to face the charges on July 5.