7 Apr 2012

Calls to drop F1 grow as Bahrain hunger striker hospitalised

As the sister of hunger striker, Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, speaks to Channel 4 News about his detention at a military hospital, calls to abandon the Formula One race mount.

The human rights activist, who has now been on hunger strike for 59 days, was transferred to the hospital on Friday amid fears over his deteriorating health.

But his wife, Khadija Almouosawi, has received reports that he is being mistreated by nurses and guards at the Bahrain Defence Force Hospital, in the country’s second largest city, Riffa.

His family and lawyers have been unable to see or talk to him since he was transferred to the facility, according to the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. Claims of mistreatment have not been independently verified.

Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, told Channel 4 News: “This is what he tried to pass to his family – that he was mistreated by some nurses at the hospital.

“We don’t know how that has been done. All we know is that he has been transferred to the military hospital because he is not doing good, as you can imagine after almost 60 days without food.”

Protesters take to streets of Bahrain as hunger striker, Abdulhadi Al Khawaja, enters 59th day (Reuters)

F1 rethink?

Protests have continued across Bahrain today, according to the Centre, as pressure mounts on motorsport authorities to cancel this month’s Formula One race in the country.

Former world champion, Damon Hill, urged governing body, the FIA, to rethink its decision to go ahead with the race amid scenes of riot police firing teargas and live bullets against demonstrators. Demands to drop the race have increased after a citizen journalist was shot dead last week.

The Bahraini leadership has said it is determined to stage the event on April 22. But opposition activists in the capital, Manama, hit out at F1 drivers. “We don’t want Formula One in our country,” Ali Mohammed said. “No one will enjoy the F1 in Bahrain with cries for freedom from the inside and outside of the race.”

Further clashes erupted yesterday as police battled more than 5,000 demonstraters gathered at Pearl Square, in the Bahraini capital, Manama, demanding the release of the activist, who was sentenced to life imprisonment in June last year for his part in leading the largely Shi’ite population in pro-democracy protests. Many protesters carried posters calling for the F1 race to be cancelled.

Richard Burden MP, echoed Mr Hill’s calls to drop the race. The self-confessed ‘motorsport nut’ said: “Damon Hill is right to call on the governing body of motorsport to rethink its decision to go ahead with this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

“Since February last year, 45 people have died on Bahrain’s streets. The latest victim was killed by live ammunition only last week. Bahrain is nothing like as bad as the terrible situation in Syria. And F1 teams do race in other countries with unenviable human rights records.

“But that does not mean it is right for F1 to collude in presenting to the otuside world a cocooned picture of normality at the Bahrain International Circuit, when what is likely to be going on just a few miles outside the circuit could be very different indeed.”