Prince Charles has been accused of "giving legitimacy to one of the world's most repressive regimes" after sealing a deal on behalf of his architecture group who will advise the Bahraini government on housing and planning. According to the Bahrain News Agency, the £700,000 deal was signed by Hank Dittmar, CEO of the Prince's Foundation for Building Community, and Bahrain's housing minister Basim Alhamer earlier this month. It followed a meeting between Mr Alhamer and Prince Charles at Clarence House on April 26.

The agreement will see advisers from the group "supervise and review" plans for a new 4,000-unit housing project in the south of the kingdom, which will take inspiration from Poundbury, the model village in Dorset created by Prince Charles 20 years ago. A team from the Foundation will visit Bahrain later this month to begin work. Representatives of Bahrain have visited Poundbury on numerous occasions - in April 2007 Charles gave the Crown Prince of Bahrain a personal tour. Bahrain has one of the worst human rights records in the middle east. Its government, led by members of the Bahraini royal family, routinely tortures and mistreats political prisoners, blocks opposition websites and harasses human rights activists. Pro-democracy protests in 2011 were brutally suppressed by Bahraini security forces using shotguns, rubber bullets and teargas. Demonstrations against last month's F1 Grand Prix were also violently suppressed. The news also raises questions about the nature of Prince Charles’s official engagements. The meeting with Bahraini officials on April 26 was listed on the royal website yet had no purpose other than to support Charles’s own private projects.

"The deal is already being used for PR purposes by the Bahraini royal family, helping to deflect attention from the human suffering and repression they're inflicting on their own people," said Republic's chief executive Graham Smith. "It seems that as far as Charles is concerned it's fine to support despots and tyrants as long as they call themselves 'prince' or 'king'." "Serious questions need to be asked about the nature of Prince Charles’s engagements, which his press office love to crow about when claiming he works hard for Britain.  This meeting with the Bahrainis was all about pushing his own hobby horse and securing a deal for his friends at the Prince’s Foundation."