Clashes continue as Formula 1 CEO calls Bahrain 'peaceful'
Clashes between protesters and police continued in Bahrain on Friday just after the country was deemed safe for a flashy automobile race by the event's chief executive, who insisted that the Persian Gulf nation was quiet and peaceful.
Bahrain has grappled with protests for more than a year as dissidents challenge its Sunni Muslim monarchy. Though the government has taken some steps toward reform since a blistering commission report condemned police abuses, human rights groups say it has failed to free political prisoners and continued cracking down on protests. One jailed activist has been on a hunger strike for more than two months.
Last year, Formula 1 races were delayed and ultimately canceled because of mass protests. Opposition activists have unsuccessfully called on Formula 1 to cancel its upcoming Grand Prix in the country this year, saying the races shouldn't go on while protests are still raging. Bahraini authorities have promoted the upcoming races as a way to show the country is stable and undivided.
Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone resisted the pressure from activists this week, as the racing group officially announced the Grand Prix would go on next week as scheduled.
"We don't go into a country and interfere with the politics of the country," Ecclestone told CNN. The Associated Press quoted him saying Bahrain was "all very quiet and peaceful," safe for the coming races.
Yet protests erupted again Friday in conjunction with the funeral of videographer Ahmad Ismail, who was reportedly shot two weeks ago while filming a protest outside Manama. Amateur videos purportedly made Friday in Bahrain show large crowds rallying for his funeral and later being tear-gassed by police.
Some protesters hurled Molotov cocktails, the Associated Press reported. In one especially striking video from the Friday funeral, mourners appear to be deluged with tear gas as they try to bury Ismail:
Another video uploaded Friday appears to show police chasing protesters and shooting something at them. Warning: The video, which is not very clear, seems to include some profane language:
Photo: Police disperse protesters in Salmabad village, south of the Bahraini capital, Manama, on Friday during the funeral of videographer Ahmad Ismail. Credit: Mazen Mahdi / European Pressphoto Agency
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles