Thu, Mar 07, 2019 - Page 16 News List

F1 ‘turned a blind eye’ over activist’s jailing

The Guardian

Formula One has been accused of “looking the other way” by human rights groups in the case of an activist who was beaten, sexually abused and jailed for protesting against the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Najah Yusuf, who was imprisoned after a series of Facebook posts in April 2017 that were critical of the race and the regime, has not been allowed to see her family for six months.

F1 initially said it had “concerns” about Yusuf’s case, but in a letter to Human Rights Watch and the Bahraini Institute of Rights and Democracy (BIRD) on Monday, it said it had been assured that Yusuf’s conviction “had nothing to do with peaceful protest around the Bahrain Grand Prix.”

In a letter seen by the Guardian, it added that the Bahraini government had also promised that “anyone who merely criticized or continues to criticize Formula 1 in Bahrain is free to do so.”

F1’s willingness to accept the word of the Bahraini regime has infuriated human rights groups, who point out that the court judgement against Yusuf said she had written “no to Formula races on occupied Bahraini land” in one post, while in another she claimed that F1 coming to her country was “nothing more than a way for the [ruling] Al Khalifa family to whitewash their criminal record and gross human-rights violations.”

She also called for a “Freedom for the Formula Detainees” march to highlight protestors who had been jailed for criticizing the race, which was canceled in 2011 after demonstrations in the country.

Human Rights Watch Lebanon and Bahrain researcher Aya Majzoub said F1 was guilty of “looking the other way” and was “complicit in Bahrain’s attempted use of the Grand Prix to whitewash those abuses.”

“Taking the Bahraini government’s assurances that no punitive measures will be directed against activists for peacefully opposing the Grand Prix is absurd given Bahrain’s track record of repressive measures to close down protests opposing the races in the country,” she said.

BIRD director of advocacy Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei said he was stunned at F1’s response.

It sent the world an “appalling message that its supposed commitment to human rights in reality means nothing” just weeks before this month’s Bahrain Grand Prix, he added.

Meanwhile, British politician Paul Scriven said he would be pressing Yousif’s case with senior F1 figures next week.

“It is clear the senior people running F1 are not taking their responsibilities seriously in dealing with human rights abuses,” he said. “If F1 leaders won’t deal with human rights abuses that are directly linked to their sporting events, then maybe it’s time to take the case direct to the sponsors, teams and individual drivers.”

This story has been viewed 1907 times.

Comments will be moderated. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned.

TOP top