Countess of Wessex under fire for Bahrain royal gifts

British royal urged to donate jewellery sets given by Bahraini Crown Prince to charity
Countess of Wessex under fire for Bahrain royal gifts
The Countess of Wessex, wife of Prince Edward
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Sun 08 Jan 2012 11:01 AM

The UK’s Countess of Wessex is under fire for accepting two sets of jewellery from the royal family in Bahrain, amid reports of human rights abuses under the Gulf regime.  

The wife of Prince Edward, seventh in line to the throne, received the gifts during an official visit to the country while her husband received a pen and a watch, British media reports said.

Other gifts to the couple from the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, included a silk rug and a silver and pearl cup, said media reports.

Critics urged the Countess to sell the jewellery collections and donate the proceeds to political protestors in the Gulf state.

“Given the appalling suffering and repression of the Bahraini people, it would be a fitting gesture for the Countess of Wessex to auction these trinkets and distribute the proceeds to the victims of the regime,” Denis MacShane, a former Foreign Office minister, said.

A spokeswoman for the couple declined to comment. 

Bahrain in March imposed martial law and called in troops from neighbouring Gulf states to quell thousands of protestors demanding curbs on the power of the ruling Al-Khalifa family.

Last year Bahrain's crown prince declined his invitation to the royal wedding of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, after a public outcry over the crackdown on demonstrators.

An independent report last month found Bahraini police used excessive force and “systemic” torture against protestors.

It is common for governments to offer gifts to foreign royals or leaders during state visits as a gesture of goodwill. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah showered US President Barack Obama, his family and staff with more than $300,000 worth of jewellery, ornaments and rare books during his first year in office. One present, a ruby and diamond jewellery set given by the king to Michelle Obama, was worth $132,000.

Gifts given to the British royal family do not belong to the recipient. Instead, they are available for use during their lifetime after which they are usually passed onto the Royal Collection.

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