While I hate to continuously bring politics into an F1 Blog the latest news from Bahrain make disturbing reading. Regardless of the BICI report, which recommended reform and reconciliation and formed the basis for the Al-Kalifa ruling minority's arguments in favour of the race taking place this year, it would appear that the regime has signalled a bit of a u-turn in its latest court decision handed down to a number of Shi'ite doctors who treated the wounded resulting from last year's pro-democracy uprising.
While 9 of 20 medics were acquitted the courts upheld the convictions against 9 others, albeit with reduced sentences.
In September of last year a military court sentenced the 20 to between 5 & 15 years on charges which ranged from occupying a hospital to incitement to overthrow the government and possession of arms. The revised sentences range from a one month term to 5 years. The two medics who were not present in this instance are believed to have left the country after a Military Court handed down 15 year sentences, reports state that they had their sentences upheld.
The medics argue that they are being prosecuted for treating protesters while the ruling monarchy argue, as per the charges, that they were politicizing their profession and calling for the overthrow of the government. A direct quote from The Bahrain News Agency states:
It is important to note that no medic is being charged for treating protestors. The charges brought against the medics were primarily for their involvement in politicizing their profession, breaching medical ethics and, most serious of which, was their call and involvement in the overthrow of the monarchy.
Make of it what you will, however I feel that the courts have made the point for the Regime that any reform will be at their whim and behest and will not be based on the will of the people.
The medics have the right to appeal the verdict of the courts and I would be surprised if, at this final judgement, the majority of the remaining convictions were not quashed on the grounds of "clemency", in order to underline the power of the Monarchy, their compassion, and in the spirit of forgiveness. It could well be the case that the appeals court upholds the convictions and the Monarchy pardons them for the foregoing - no doubt with reference to the "sins of the past" and as a gesture to "reconciliation".
F1, the FIA, and all of the other "stakeholders" stuck their head in the Bahraini sand on this one. I remain convinced that the race should not have gone ahead in the absence of any real and significant reform and that, as of yet, it should not go ahead in 2013.