Scandal in Norway: Organizations Headed by Senior Officials Received Money in Return for Granting Khalifa bin Salman Award

2021-12-02 - 12:35 am

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): A report published by the Dagbladet newspaper on a Norwegian Organization granting an international award to the former Bahraini Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa in return for money has been the main topic in the political and media circles in the Norwegian capital.

The newspaper documents the event held in August 2019 when capital Oslo hosted a ceremony, in which Norway granted Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa the Norwegian Guest of Honor 2019 prize "in recognition of his efforts to promote peace, security, tolerance and regional and global harmony."

The ceremony was sponsored and attended by the then Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Norway, Conservative Party President Erna Solberg, and in the presence of Minister of Cabinet Affairs Mohammad Al-Mutawa, President of the Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa Award for Sustainable Development Hussam bin Isa Al Khalifa, and a group of figures and officials in the Kingdom of Norway.

The newspaper begins by presenting an email written by Norwegian politician of Pakistani origin Ammar J. Sheikh, president of the (August 14) Organization, which granted the award, sent to the office of the former Bahraini prime minister, requesting funds. "We need your support," he said at the beginning of his email.

According to the newspaper's documents, the budget for the awards ceremony was 1.44 million Norwegian krone. "We need your support of 704,000 Norwegian krone for the awards ceremony, see the attached budget costs," Ammar J. Sheikh wrote.

The Dagbladet newspaper says it does not know precisely how much the final cost of the award ceremony was. The paper asked Ammar Sheikh, but he didn't respond. The report confirms that Ammar Sheikh sent a copy of the email to the email address of former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Bondevik, who heads Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights.

The newspaper went on to say that after a while "they presented an honorary award to the authoritarian regime". The Norwegian organization honored Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the second man in the authoritarian regime, with an "honorary award".

During the ceremony, Kjell Bondevik (former PM), delivered a speech in which he praised Khalifa bin Salman and spoke about alleged positive steps taken by the regime in Bahrain.

The total amount of money mentioned in the email is more than 88,000 dinars, and the newspaper expects that this amount was only the cost for organizing the ceremony and hotel expenses. 

Former Norwegian Prime Minister and Conservative Party President, Erna Solberg, denied, after the report was published, she was present at the ceremony to grant an award to Khalifa bin Salman and said she was there to grant the "Bridge Builder" award. Solberg refused to comment on the case raised by the newspaper.

It noteworthy that when it was announced that Khalifa bin Salman was granted the award, a number of human rights organizations condemned it and denounced Prime Minister Solberg's presence.

Dagbladet asked the former Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights, Kjell Bondevik, if he had received funds from Bahrain, however, he refused to respond. Bondevik and Ammar Sheikh also refused to respond to criticism from human rights activist Yousif Al-Muhafda who said that the honorary prize is to whitewash the Bahraini regime's reputation.

Lawyer, corruption expert and Secretary General of Transparency International in Norway, Guro Slettemark, told the newspaper: "If prizes are awarded to people from whom the funds have been received, this practice may quickly undermine the credibility of both the organization that awards the award and its recipients. In general, we also recommend full transparency about all sources of income for the organization."

It is noteworthy that the (Dagbladet) newspaper also revealed that the Secretary General of the Muslim World League, Mohammed Al-Issa, received the Bridge Builder Award this year, after the (August 14 Organization) received 65,000 Norwegian kroner from the Muslim World League, to organize the award ceremony, which was held last August.

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