Bahrain F1 winds up after protest-hit week

Bahrain's controversial Grand Prix race went off without incident on Sunday after a week of angry protests away from the F1 desert circuit that put the non-sporting focus on reform demands in the Gulf state.

King Hamad was among 10,500 spectators on the main grandstand and a smaller audience watched from other platforms as double world champion 24-year-old Sebastian Vettel of Germany led from start to finish.

The country's Shiite opposition had called for the race, held behind layers of security at a time of soaring tensions in the Sunni-ruled kingdom with a Shiite majority, to be called off.

The most radical elements of the opposition, the February 14 Youth Movement, used text messaging and social networks to urge protesters to hold fresh demonstrations to coincide with the race.

Right after the race, protesters burnt tyres on the main road linking the capital to the Sakhir race track, witnesses said, as security forces stopped dozens of others from marching towards the now demolished Pearl Square in central Manama.

Earlier, activists used burning tyres and garbage to try to block roads to the circuit. An AFP photographer said the route, though jam-packed with traffic, was later cleared.

Bahrain's interior ministry said "all roads and routes leading to the (Sakhir) circuit were safe and open."

Police were out in strength patrolling Manama and roads to the track. Helicopters flew low over the capital and armoured vehicles were deployed across the city, witnesses said.

At the racetrack, spectators each paid 155 Bahraini dinars (310 euros) for the final day or 180 dinars for the whole three-day event. Men in Arab dishdashas stood along Westerners and women in shorts milling around souvenir stands.

Bahrain insists the unrest is isolated, but tensions mounted as protesters intensified their movement, taking advantage of the world media spotlight on the showcase event.

The Grand Prix in Bahrain was cancelled last year in the wake of pro-democracy protests centred on Pearl Square and subsequent crackdown in which a government commission said 35 people were killed.

In a statement before the race, King Hamad pledged he was committed to reform.

"I also want to make clear my personal commitment to reform and reconciliation in our great country. The door is always open for sincere dialogue amongst all our people," he said.

His announcement came as police fired tear gas and stun grenades at Shiite protesters who responded by hurling rocks and fire bombs while chanting "Down with Hamad," witnesses told AFP.

In protests that lasted through the night and into early Sunday, demonstrators also called for the release of prominent Shiite activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, on hunger strike since early February.

State news agency BNA reported that Khawaja was in "good" health and that the Danish ambassador had visited him in hospital on Sunday, as Khawaja is a dual citizen of Bahrain and Denmark.

However, local rights groups reported that authorities on Saturday arrested two prominent activists, including Khawaja's daughter Zeinab.

The Youth Society for Human Rights said Zeinab would face interrogation by authorities for taking part in demonstrations, but it was not clear if she was still being detained on Sunday.

Another activist, Mohammed Hasan, 26, was beaten by police with the barrel of a gun, another rights group said.

Rights watchdogs have repeatedly called for Khawaja's release and denounced the government's reforms as mostly hollow. They also warned that the political stalemate could set Bahrain on a path to more violent confrontation.

In some Shiite villages, including Malkiya, Karzakan, Sadad and Damistan, protesters late on Saturday carried banners that read "No to the formula of blood," a key campaign slogan of the protest movement.

On Saturday a protester was found dead in the Shiite village of Shakhura.

The opposition Al-Wefaq movement said security forces on Friday night "attacked peaceful protesters, brutally beating some of them with various tools and weapons" in Shakhura.

The interior ministry said it was probing the death of Salah Abbas Habib, 36.

The violence has centred mostly in and around Manama's neighbouring Shiite villages but on Wednesday, four mechanics from the Force India F1 team were caught in a traffic jam as a petrol bomb exploded nearby.

Two team members later left the country and the India Force crew cancelled a practise run on Friday afternoon.

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • PSEi breaches 8,000 level, but profit-taking pared most gains

    [caption id="attachment_257092" align="alignleft" width="150"] PSEi breaches 8,000 mark (PSE photo)[/caption] Local share prices surged on a slew of positive news from abroad, sending the Philippine Stock Exchange index past the 8,000 mark for the first time in history. BDO Unibank chief market strategist Jonathan Ravelas said the market rose due to “positive foreign equity portfolio flows and Fed Chair Yellen’s comments last week reiterating thethat the FOMC will be data dependent and …

  • Abandoned, hard-up husband hits P60-M Lotto pot

    Lady luck finally smiled on a hard-up tricycle driver, who endured being abandoned by his wife and seeing his children drop out of school before hitting the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) 6/45 Lotto jackpot worth nearly P60 million. PCSO acting chairman Jose Ferdinand M. Rojas II said the 29-year old lucky bettor hit the jackpot in the March 20 draw by correctly picking the winning numbers 02-03-14-22-29-30, which corresponds to the birth anniversary dates of his family members. …

  • News In Brief

    P/$ RATE CLOSES AT P44.80/$1The peso exchange rate closed  lower  at P44.80  to the US dollar yesterday at the Philippine Dealing & Exchange Corp. (PDEx) from P44.76  last  Friday.  The weighted average rate  unchanged  to  P44.796  from  P44.796.  Total volume amounted to $340.6 million.PUMP PRICES RAISED THIS WEEKThe pump prices of gasoline products will be raised by P1.10 per liter this week and diesel by P0.60 per liter, according to the oil companies. In an advisory to the media, the oil …

  • Need for modern national sports complex underscored

    Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara yesterday pushed for the construction of a “state-of-the-art” and “highly scientific sports complex” that can be used by the country’s national athletes for high-level training and total wellness program. Angara, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Games, Amusement and Sports, said the government should at least provide decent support to its athletes by providing them with ultramodern sports venues and facilities if it wants them to improve the country’s …

  • Makati mayor slams PNP’s role in mayoralty row

    Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin S. Binay denounced what he called apparent “misuse” of the Philippine National Police (PNP) force in the implementation of “selective suspension” of government officials not allied with the ruling party. Binay said he sympathizes with PNP personnel who often got caught in the middle of political conflicts, and called for an end to dirty political tactics. [caption id="attachment_257243" align="aligncenter" width="648"] THANKSGIVING MEAL – Vice President Jejomar C. …

  • EVAP warns of unscrupulous foreign electric vehicle suppliers

    The Electric Vehicle Association of the Philippines  (EVAP) has cautioned local manufacturers and end users against unscrupulous foreign EV suppliers that are flocking into the domestic market. In a sunrise industry like the electric vehicle industry, EVAP stressed that choosing the right partner or supplier is a difficult task. “In the absence of any track record to review, an end user is at a loss as to how to choose a reliable and competent supplier,” said Atty. Bodie Pulido, EVAP …

  • Mayors laud bill increasing tax revenue allocation for LGUs

    The League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) is backing the proposed increase in the annual automatic allocations for local government units (LGUs) to boost inclusive growth with improved infrastructure, modernized agriculture and easier access to resources. Mayor Jess Burahan, secretary-general of the LMP said the empowerment of LGUs through added resources is a game changer in boosting inclusive growth. …

  • Freeze order against Jinggoy assets final; Bong guards face raps

    The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has turned down with finality the plea of Senator Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada to lift the freeze order on his properties amounting to more than P183 million. In a resolution released yesterday, the Fifth Division denied Estrada’s motion for reconsideration that sought that the court lift its writ of preliminary attachment/garnishment that was issued on February 17 that ordered the freeze of his properties. “As movant has not filed a counterbond and his arguments …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options