• Bahrain Grand Prix

Protestor's death and rioting rekindles Bahrain fears

ESPNF1 Staff
April 2, 2012 « France inching towards F1 return | Sauber pushing for budget cap »
A Bahraini anti-government protester throws a tear gas canister fired by riot police back toward them during riots at the weekend © Press Association

While race organisers and Formula One officials have been upbeat about their decision to go ahead with the Bahrain Grand Prix in three weeks time, their fears that the event would lead to an escalation of protests within the kingdom appear to have been realised after a weekend of violence which left one person dead.

Unrest on Saturday escalated after it emerged a 22-year-old had been killed after being hit by a shot from a civilian vehicle following closely behind the police. That triggered more widespread protests, some specifically against the staging of the race, on Sunday and police fought running battles to try to maintain control. They fired teargas into crowds and made a number of arrests.

The family of the protestor refused to sign his death certificate as it did not mention his having been shot as a cause of death. "We will receive his body when they change the report. The police have pressured us to take him, but we said no," his sister Nadya said on Sunday. "He is already dead, we can wait to put him under the ground. He was killed with his camera because he was showing the world our revolution."

The authorities are concerned that the funeral will be a centrepoint for more protests.

The incidents call into question reassurances given by Sheikh Abdullah bin Isa al-Khalifa, the president of the Automobile Federation of Bahrain, that no additional security would be necessary. Behind the scenes it is believed a huge security operation is being mounted to ensure no demonstrators can get near to the circuit or the hotels housing the Formula One roadshow.

However, protesters have vowed to disrupt the race weekend in any way they can, with demonstrations planned for central Manama as well as at the circuit.

Last week Bernie Ecclestone criticised the media for inflaming the situation with reports of more protests. "Seriously, the press should just be quiet and deal with the facts rather than make up stories," he said.