Bahrain lobbies to retain Grand Prix as Formula One staff are held and abused

Formula One is expected to rule today on Bahrain's attempt to stage a coveted Grand Prix this season despite police arresting and abusing one quarter of the local staff during a crackdown against pro-democracy protests.

Civil unrest meant that the race was postponed in February and Formula One organisers will meet in Barcelona to decide on the rescheduling of the event after a determined lobbying effort by the government to show that life is returning to normal in the island kingdom.

In the run up to the decision on Formula One, police patrols have sought to prevent any demonstrations and controversial trials of pro-democracy protesters have been postponed. Ayat al-Gormezi, the 20-year-old girl poet, who was to be tried by a military tribunal on a charge of stirring up hatred and insulting the King, has had her trial put off until 6 June.

Of the 108 local staff of the government-owned Bahrain International Circuit (BIC), which hosts Formula One, some 28 were detained and mistreated according to a source in Bahrain close to the event. All of those arrested are Shia and have since been sacked. Five of these are still in prison including the chief financial officer Jaafar Almansoor, an employee of BIC told Reuters news agency.

"They made us beat and kick each other," said the employee, who did not want to be named, describing their 20 days in detention. "They said they'd rape us. They tried to touch you in various places to make you think it's going to happen." The prisoners were insulted for being Shia and, on being released, were told not to talk to the media.

Details of mistreatment of women in custody are often difficult to obtain because victims of abuse are ashamed to admit they were threatened with rape or otherwise humiliated.

One of the most graphic, which also illustrates the Bahraini authorities' wish to intimidate journalists, comes from Nazeeha Saeed, the Bahraini correspondent of France 24 television and Radio Monte Carlo in testimony given to Reporters Without Borders.

Summoned to a police station on 22 May, Ms Saeed was accused by a female officer of "lying" in her reports and having links to the Lebanese Shia Hezbollah television station al-Manar and the Iranian Arabic station Al-Alam. She was grabbed by the jaw, slapped, punched and kicked by four police women, one of whom screamed: "You must tell the truth." Another took off her shoe and forced it into Ms Saeed's mouth saying: "You are worth less than this shoe."

She was then dragged to another office and forced to kneel on a chair, facing the back of the chair, exposing her back and the soles of her feet which were beaten with flexible black plastic tubing. She was accused of lying and "harming Bahrain's image".

During a later interrogation session Ms Saeed was blindfolded and told to bray like a donkey and walk like an animal. She was beaten again. At this point one police woman held a plastic bottle against her mouth and shouted: "Drink, it's urine."

Ms Saeed knocked the bottle aside and it fell to the floor but the police woman picked it up and poured what was left in the bottle on her face. She says she is not certain the liquid was urine but it stung her skin.

After a further round of beating, she was sent back to wait in a room with other women. They were allowed to go to the toilet and brought food. Later the head of the police station asked to see Ms Saeed and, claiming not to know that she had been interrogated, allowed her to phone her mother and go home.

Nobody, however prominent in business or otherwise appears safe from arbitrary arrest. Ghazi Farhan, an executive in a property company who also owns three restaurants and a riding stable, was arrested in his office carpark on 12 April by plain clothes police and since then has only had two brief telephone conversations with his family.

His wife, Ala'a Shehabi, has been prevented from leaving Bahrain despite repeated representations by the Foreign Office.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower