John Yates criticised over Bahrain comments


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The Independent Online

A UK-based Bahraini activist has criticised former Scotland Yard counter-terrorism chief John Yates after he suggested he felt safer in protest-riven Bahrain than he did in London.

Mr Yates, who is advising the Bahraini government on police reform, wrote to Formula 1 boss Jean Todt about security in the Gulf kingdom amid continued question marks over the Grand Prix scheduled for April 22.

He admitted there were "some troubles" but said social media had presented a "distorted picture" of ongoing violent demonstrations, which take place almost daily but largely in villages away from the capital Manama.

Mr Yates wrote: "Along with my family, I feel completely safe. Indeed, safer than I have often felt in London."

London-based Bahraini pro-democracy campaigner Ali Mushaima warned that there could be no guarantees for the Formula 1 teams' safety if the race goes ahead.

Mr Mushaima, 29, has been on hunger strike since April 4 and has spent the last two nights protesting outside the US Embassy in London's Grosvenor Square.

He said: "The people are very angry. I don't think that the area will be safe.

"If the Bahraini people don't feel safe in their country, they cannot give any foreign people guarantees to be safe when Formula 1 comes to Bahrain.

"The Bahraini people are peaceful. However, if Formula 1 comes to Bahrain, I don't know what will happen - but I don't think everything will be peaceful."

Last year's Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled in the wake of anti-government protests that resulted in a number of deaths.

Mr Mushaima said: "Last year Formula 1 didn't come to Bahrain for the same reason.

"There are still human rights abuses, many hundreds of Bahrainis are in prison, and still the villages are being attacked, Bahrain is occupied by Saudi troops. Nothing has changed."

He alleged that torture, imprisonment and killing of opponents of the regime have continued since Mr Yates arrived in Bahrain to oversee reform of the police force along with former Miami police chief John Timoney.

"John Yates is not welcome in Bahrain. He should leave our country," he said.

Mr Yates quit the Metropolitan Police last July after facing criticism for not reopening the phone-hacking inquiry when the Guardian published a story in July 2009 revealing the illegal practice was far more widespread than previously believed.

In his letter to Mr Todt, he said the significance of the ongoing demonstrations should not be overplayed.

He wrote: "These are not lawful protests which are permitted, but violent conduct by a very small minority - often groups of 15-20 young men.

"These are criminal acts being perpetrated against an unarmed police force who, in the face of such attacks, are acting with remarkable restraint.

"These people are intent on causing harm to the police and the communities in which they live.

"They are not representative of the vast majority of delightful, law-abiding citizens that represent the real Bahrain that I see every day."