Bahrain mourner shot amid mounting F1 concern

A mourner shot by police was in intensive care on Saturday in protest-hit Bahrain as Formula One bosses said next week's Grand Prix will proceed as planned, despite fears it could spark anti-regime protests.

The 15-year-old youth was shot by anti-riot police while attending the funeral of a citizen journalist killed during a protest in the Gulf kingdom late last month, the opposition said.

Mohammed Ahmed Abdel Aziz was among several people wounded during the funeral ceremony for Ahmed Ismail, 22, said Al-Wefaq, the main Shiite opposition movement in the Sunni-ruled nation with a Shiite-majority population.

Abdel Aziz sustained bullet wounds to the chest as police fired tear gas and live rounds at mourners.

F1 governing body the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) and commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone both said in Shanghai, venue of Sunday's Chinese Grand Prix, that the April 22 Bahrain event would take place.

US-based watchdog Human Rights Watch said the decision to go ahead with the race would be exploited by the ruling Sunni dynasty.

The decision "gives Bahrain's rulers the opportunity they are seeking to obscure the seriousness of the country's human rights situation," HRW said in a statement.

"Formula One promoters say their decision to race in Bahrain should not be derailed by political considerations, but the ruling family will attempt to portray today's (Friday's) decision as a political statement of support for its repressive policies," said Tom Porteous, deputy programme director at HRW.

"The FIA has played into the government's narrative to gloss over Bahrain's continuing human rights crisis."

The controversial Bahrain event has overshadowed the lead-up to the Shanghai race, and many teams are believed to have grave concerns about the Gulf event.

It was postponed last year after protests broke out against the government, and was thought to be in jeopardy once again because of the more than year-long demonstrations.

The FIA said in a statement on Friday that it was "satisfied" that sufficient security was in place at Bahrain's Sakhir circuit to deter protesters who say they will target the event.

The "Revolution of February 14" youth group has called for "three days of rage" in Bahrain from April 20 to 22, and launched a campaign on Twitter to cancel the Grand Prix.

Bahrain reiterated on Friday that the kingdom was safe.

"The FIA made the right decision," Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) chief executive Sheikh Salman bin Issa al-Khalifa told AFP.

HRW said Bahrain's "rulers have not fully carried out the key recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry" (BICI) into the "largely peaceful pro-democracy protests in February-March 2011."

Last year's month-long protests centring on the now demolished monument in Pearl Square in Bahrain's capital Manama left 35 people dead, including five from torture, according to the BICI report into the unrest issued in November.

"The FIA, having given a green light for the Grand Prix to be exploited for human rights harm, needs to take all the steps it can to redress the damage it has caused and make sure the Bahraini authorities implement the measures that are needed," Porteous said.


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