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Conservative MP Bob Stewart guilty of racially aggravated public order offence

A Conservative MP who told an activist to "go back to Bahrain" has been found guilty of a racially aggravated public order offence and fined £600.

Bob Stewart, MP for Beckenham in south-east London, got into a row with Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei outside the Foreign Office's Lancaster House in Westminster on 14 December.

He told Mr Alwadaei: "You're taking money off my country, go away."

Labour and the Liberal Democrats have called for him to lose the Tory whip.

Westminster Magistrates' Court heard the 74-year-old had been attending an event hosted by the Bahraini Embassy when Mr Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, shouted: "Bob Stewart, for how much did you sell yourself to the Bahraini regime?"

Stewart replied: "Go away, I hate you. You make a lot of fuss. Go back to Bahrain."

Mr Alwadaei challenged Stewart on his connections with the country, asking repeatedly whether he had accepted any money from the Bahraini government.

The MP, who was stationed in Bahrain as an Army officer in the 1960s, told the campaigner to "get stuffed" and added: "Bahrain's a great place. End of."

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Mr Alwadaei said: "No-one should think twice about holding an MP or members of the government to account because of their skin colour.

"When I reported Mr Stewart to the Conservative Party, they didn't take action against him and when he was charged, they refused to suspend him.

"Given today's verdict, I expect them to take immediate action."

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei called the verdict a "significant step towards accountability"

Paul Jarvis, prosecuting, told the court: "Mr Alwadaei felt upset and humiliated by what had taken place."

'Measured House of Commons way'

He added: "He (Stewart) demonstrated racial hostility towards Mr Alwadaei by way of his comments."

However, the prosecutor said Stewart "was not motivated by racial hostility".

Stewart's defence, Paul Cavin KC, had argued: "There is no right to confront an MP in public and expect answers in a measured House of Commons way."

He added: "Any hostility was based on the complainant's behaviour, conduct and speech towards the defendant."

Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, 90, giving character evidence, said "kind" and "thoughtful" Stewart has a "flippant" manner, adding: "He is given to saying things that are unwise but his heart is absolutely in the right place."

'Honour at stake'

Asked for his thoughts on the allegations of racial hostility, Stewart said: "That's absurd, it's totally unfair. My life has been, I don't want to say destroyed, but I am deeply hurt at having to appear in a court like this.

"I am not a racist. He was saying that I was corrupt and that I had taken money.

"My honour was at stake in front of a large number of ambassadors."

Bob Stewart outside court on Friday 3 November after being found guilty of racist abuse
Stewart has been an MP since 2010

Speaking after the guilty verdict, opposition parties, called for the Conservative whip to be removed from Mr Stewart, meaning he would need to sit as an independent MP.

Labour chairwoman Anneliese Dodds said it was "yet another serious Conservative scandal".

"This behaviour is totally unacceptable for a sitting MP. Rishi Sunak and the Conservative Party need to immediately take action, and remove the Conservative whip," she said.

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: "It's time Sunak finally acted with integrity. This should start with immediately removing the whip from Bob Stewart.

"Failing to remove the whip sends a dangerous message that behaviour like this is acceptable."

The Conservative Party said it was not commenting at the moment.

Parliamentary records show Stewart registered flights, accommodation and meals worth £5,349 during a four-day trip to Bahrain last November paid for by its ministry of foreign affairs.

A separate entry covered by the Bahraini government shows another trip, worth £1,245.56, to visit an air show and meet its foreign minister.

Mr Alwadaei alleged the country is "corrupt" and a "human rights violator".

'No place in society'

Claire Walsh, Deputy Chief Crown Prosecutor of the CPS, said: "His claim that his words were misinterpreted was rejected by the court in light of evidence presented by the CPS, including footage filmed by a witness and the victim's testimony.

"Hatred of any kind has no place in society and wherever our legal test is met, the CPS will not hesitate to prosecute those who perpetrate hate crimes."

The MP was also ordered to pay legal costs of £835.

His £600 fine would have been £400 had it not been for the seriousness of the hate crime he committed, the CPS said.

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