by Kristina Chew
The body of a protester found dead on the day before the Bahraini Grand Prix has been confirmed to be that of Sala Abbas Habib, a 37-year-old activist. A statement from Bahraini authorities cited in the Guardian says that Habib had been wounded in his left side and that his death is being treated as a homicide. Mohammed Eissa, Habib’s brother-in-law, said that his family was not allowed to see his body, says Al Jazeera.
Habib’s body was discovered as practice and qualifying sessions for the Formula One race were taking place. On Friday, Bahrain’s Crown Prince, Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, had said that canceling the race — as occurred a year ago after widespread anti-government protests and cost the Bahraini government some $800 million– would “just empowers extremists.” He asserted that holding the Grand Prix would “build bridges across communities.” Jean Todt, the president of the motor racing governing body, the FIA, said that “On rational facts, it was decided there was no reason to change our mind” from holding the race.
The opposition group al-Wefaq says that Habib’s body, covered in blood and wearing a teargas mask, was found on the roof of a building after he and other protesters had been beaten by police following a demonstration in the Shia village of Shakhura late on Friday night. Reports are suggesting that Habib was shot. Chief of Public Security Major-General Tariq Al Hasan said that his body had been found in “suspicious circumstances” and that more details would be released as an investigation proceeds.
But Khalil Marzooq, one of 18 al-Wefaq MPs who stepped down over the suppression of last year’s protests, said he was doubtful about the police investigating the death of Habib, who some are claiming was a political prisoner in the 1990s. According to the BBC, al-Wefaq also said that security forces had used tools and weapons to beat protesters in Shakhura.
Thousands protested on Saturday, with police firing tear gas and protesters throwing Molotov cocktails in some areas.
Activist Zainab Al-Khawaja was briefly detained when she attempted to see her father, jailed activist Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who has been on a hunger strike since February 6. On Saturday, she described his condition to the BBC as critical and said that “We’re afraid that we might never hear of him again, and that we might not see him again.” Activist Najeel Rajab led a protest on Saturday to call for her father’s release.
At least a hundred people have been arrested in the past week according to activists; police have said that they have arrested “some people.”