UK refuses visa to Syria Olympic chief

By Alex Veeneman on June 25, 2012

The London Olympic Stadium, where teams from around the world will compete later in July.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr user doug88888)

The British government has refused a visa to the chief of Syria’s Olympic Committee General Mowaffak Joumaa to visit London for the forthcoming Olympic Games.

According to a report from the BBC, Joumaa was denied a visa because of his ties to the regime of its leader Bashar al-Assad. The BBC adds that the decision was made by officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, and the Home Office (which oversees domestic policy including border control).

A spokesman for the Foreign Office said the FCO declined to comment for this article, but referred to the UK Border Agency within the Home Office. A spokesman for the Border Agency declined to comment for this article.

After the decision had been made, the government notified the organizers of the Games, LOCOG, who then in turn, according to the BBC, would notify the International Olympic Committee, which is to ratify the decision. A spokesperson for the Games organizer declined to comment for this article.

A spokesman for the International Olympic Committee, based in Switzerland, told Uloop that the Committee had not been officially approached with regard to the ban, and declined to comment further.

According to the BBC, it was suggested earlier this year that some members of the regime could be denied entry, with the country’s Foreign Secretary William Hague saying he had been “absolutely sickened” by the deaths. The UN says according to the BBC at least 10,000 people have died since the conflict began in March of 2011. Hague said according to the BBC the deaths had shined “a light to the whole world on the oppression and brutality of the regime”.

Officials in Syria have denied army involvement, according to the BBC, and cited terrorist groups for the high number of deaths.

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