The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has been accused of wasting taxpayers' money after dropping charges against a man arrested during a protest outside the Science Museum.
Isa Alaali was due to stand trial accused of wilful obstruction of the highway after he took part in a demonstration at the South Kensington museum while it hosted military delegates from around the world ahead of Farnborough International Airshow (FIA).
But last week his lawyers, Bindmans LLP, revealed charges against the 22-year-old had been dropped due to lack of evidence.
Protest groups and organisation have welcomed the decision but say Mr Alaali, who fled his homeland in Bahrain after being repeatedly tortured by police for taking part in the pro-democracy rallies , should never have been arrested.
Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) had arranged the protest and "die-in" at the museum in Exhibition Road as it prepared to host international military delegates ahead of the famous Hampshire air show.
Critics of the arms trade claimed the reception, which was attended by delagates from Saudi Arabia and other countries with questionable human rights records, facilitates the making of contacts which then leads to the brokering of arms deals.
CAAT spokespman Andrew Smith said: “We are very glad that the charges against Isa have been dropped, but he should never have been arrested in the first place.
"The police should have been focusing on why regimes that practice torture were being welcomed to the UK, not singling out and arresting their victims for protesting.
“The Science Museum should not be providing space for arms dealers and human rights abusers, and should not allow its premises or its good name to be used to support such a deadly business.
"Science and education are far too important to be used as promotional tools for the arms trade.”
The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRDBH), which calls for democracy and human rights in the Middle East nation, was also critical.
Sayed Ahmed, director of advocacy, said: “He should not have been prosecuted to begin with.
"Whatever he was doing, there were others taking the same action, so why did police single him out?
“It’s been a waste of taxpayers money to go through the process all the way to a trial only for CPS to not have enough evidence and then drop the charges.”
Samantha Broadley is from Bindmans LLP and represented Mr Alaali during his appearances in court.
She said: “It is shameful that the Crown Prosecution Service continue to seek to criminalise lawful acts of protest, even in cases where there is no prospect of achieving a conviction.
“Putting aside the impact on Mr Alaali, the complete misjudgment in charging Mr Alaali in this case has come at great expense to the UK taxpayer and has wasted precious court time.
“We hope that the police and CPS take a more principled and lawful approach when facilitating protest rights in the future.”
Mr Alaali was the only person arrested during the protest. The demonstration also saw activists enter the museum to stage a ‘die-in’ .
Speaking ahead of the protest, Science Museum director, Ian Blatchford, said financial restraints played a part in accepting the FIA welcome committee corporate booking.
“Our response to this fiscal challenge has involved a combination of reducing our running costs and increasing the income we generate," he said.
“The revenue generated by bookings such as this plays an important role in the funding mix that enables us to remain free to millions of visitors, run the biggest educational programme of its kind, and allows us to curate world-class exhibitions.”
Mr Alaali was granted asylum in Britain in 2015 following years of abuse at the hands of Bahrain officials.
During that time police threatened to cut off his penis, repeatedly beat him, placed a gun to his head and left him without food and water during long periods of interrogation.
The CPS said: “This case was originally charged by the police.
"We have a duty to keep cases under constant review and following a further review of the case it was determined that there was insufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction.
“We therefore discontinued this case.”
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