Gracia defends FIA's Bahrain report
|By Pablo Elizalde||Wednesday, June 8th 2011, 06:19 GMT|
The president of the Spanish motor sport federation, Carlos Gracia, has defended his report on the Bahrain situation after it was leaked to the public, but pressure continued to grow on Formula 1 after more criticism following the decision to reinstate the country's grand prix.
Gracia, an FIA vice-president, was the man in charge of assessing the situation in Bahrain, writing a seven-page report that was leaked on Tuesday evening.
Gracia had already come under the spotlight on Tuesday morning, when former FIA president Max Mosley had said he was a "very, very nice man called Gracia, [who] speaks no English and, as far as I know, speaks no Arabic."
The Spanish federation boss defended his report, saying he found the situation in Bahrain to be completely normal.
"I can only speak about what I saw and that was complete quietness," Gracia was quoted as saying by AS newspaper.
"I had official visits and interviews, but I also walked down the street and I was in shopping centres, always with a feeling of complete normality. There were people shopping or working. Nothing that caught my attention."
He added: "What I found was an open government that offers the opposition the chance to speak."
Campaign group Avaaz's executive director Ricken Patel was highly critical of the FIA report, however, warning that the sport's reputation will be "forever tarnished" if the race goes ahead.
"Reading the FIA's Bahrain report is like stepping into the Twilight Zone," said Patel in an Avaaz statement.
"While FIA's sham report says that no human rights have been violated, at least 31 Bahrain citizens have been killed and hundreds more tortured and imprisoned.
"Formula 1 based their decision to race in Bahrain on this dangerously irresponsible report, a decision now universally opposed by the F1 teams.
"Formula 1 must pull out of Bahrain immediately or have their reputation forever tarnished."
The statement added that Gracia "did not confer with credible human rights groups, and did not talk with injured people, torture victims, or families of the people who have died."
Maryam Al-Khawaja, from the independent Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was also quoted in the statement as saying that the report "is disastrously unbalanced."
"The FIA has chosen to turn a blind eye to the ongoing violations in Bahrain. The government should allow independent human rights groups to do their work in Bahrain," Al-Khawaja added.
The Avaaz report added: "Independent journalists and human rights organizations confirm that at least 31 people have been killed since the protests began on 14th February 2011, and more than 800 arrests have been made, including 108 members of the Grand Prix Circuit's permanent staff.
"At a trial yesterday of 47 Bahraini medical staff who were arrested for treating injured people at protests, it was revealed that detainees are being tortured."