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Middle East

Activists climb roof of Bahrain Embassy to protest human rights violations and this weekend’s Grand Prix


Two activists managed to climb onto the roof of the Bahrain Embassy in London today in protest at continuing human rights violations inside the Gulf kingdom and the decision by Formula 1 to press ahead with this weekend’s Grand Prix.

Ali Mushaima, a prominent opposition activist who has been sentenced to 15 years in absentia by the government, risked potentially handing himself into the hands of his would-be captors by stepping onto Bahraini territory shortly after lunchtime.

He and a second activist who gave his name as Moosa Abdali managed to access the roof of the embassy by scaling scaffolding on a neighbouring building in London’s Belgrave Square.

Speaking by telephone to The Independent Mr Mushaima said he was protesting in solidarity with his father, the imprisoned Shi’a politician Hassan Mushaima, and Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a prominent dissident who has been on hunger strike in a Bahraini military jail for the past two months.

“Our demand is for my father and al-Khawaja to be freed,” he said. “The rulers of Bahrain are dictators.”

Criticising Britain’s relationship with the ruling al-Khalifa dynasty of Bahrain he said: “What is the difference between Colonel Gaddafi and the al Khalifas? Both are torturers.”

He also criticised the recent decision by Formula 1 chiefs to press ahead with the Grand Prix this weekend.

“If Formula 1 goes to Bahrain it is saying it supports dictatorship, torture and repression,” he said. “The Bahraini government welcomes Formula 1 because it makes them look good.”

Last year’s Grand Prix was cancelled amid widespread civil unrest sparked by complaints from the island’s majority Shi’a population that they are discriminated against by the ruling Sunni population.

More than 50 people have since been killed amid daily street battles between police and protestors.

An independent report in November found that Bahraini police had used systematic torture during the uprising and the government has promised to bring in reforms. However last week Amnesty International criticised the pace of reforms stating that the regime was more concerned about preserving its international image rather than implementing genuine democratic change.