Bahrain have responded to human rights groups who have accused Formula 1 of ignoring abuses allegedly related to the Grand Prix that will take place on the island kingdom on 31 March.
Human Rights Watch (HRW), the London-based Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) and Index on Censorship were among 17 signatories of a letter to Formula 1 raising concerns about the jailing of female activist and blogger Najah Yusuf.
An email from a government spokesperson provided this website with the following statement:
“Najah Yusuf’s conviction does not relate to Bahrain’s Formula 1 Grand Prix. Any suggestion that she was convicted of a related offence is categorically incorrect.”
“She was charged and subsequently convicted by a court of terror offences. Furthermore, Najah Yusuf’s defence did not claim during her trial that her right to free speech had been infringed.”
“Peaceful protests of any kind are protected by Bahrain’s constitution and do not constitute a crime,” concluded the statement.
Anti-Bahrain Grand Prix protests are an annual feature of the race and was scrapped from the 2011 F1 calendar as unrest engulfed the country.
That year protesters in the capital Manama camped for days at the Pearl Roundabout, which became the centre of the protests and a symbol of the uprising.
On 14 March, 1,000 troops from Saudi Arabia and 500 troops from UAE entered Bahrain and crushed the uprising. The Pearl Roundabout was cleared of protesters and the iconic statue at its center was destroyed.