Leading opposition activist Ebrahim Sharif arrested and detained for social media posts criticising Bahrain’s ownership of McLaren

25 March 2024, Bahraini authorities arrested a leading opposition activist, Ebrahim Sharif, this morning (25 March) over social media posts critical of Bahrain’s decision to take full ownership of the McLaren Group, the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) stated today.

Sky news reported on 22 March 2024 that Bahrain’s Sovereign Wealth Fund took full ownership of McLaren becoming the “sole shareholder in McLaren Group after a recapitalisation of one of Britain’s most famous automotive names.”

Earlier this morning, Mr Sharif attended a police interview following a summon and was subsequently referred to the public prosecution which ordered 7 day detention pending investigation over social media posts that allegedly incite hatred against the regime, according to his lawyer and family.

If officially charged, he could face imprisonment under Article 165 of the Bahrain Penal Code which states that “A prison sentence shall be passed against any person who expressly incites others to develop hatred or hostility towards the system of government.”

His wife, Farida Ghulam, confirmed his arrest and reasons for detention over a post on X:

[English Translation]
“The charges brought against Bushrif [Ebrahim Sharif] by the Public Prosecution focused on his recent tweets about McLaren and the budgets that are pumped into it without accountability in exchange for balancing housing projects and the needs of citizens, as well as the tweet about the fire in the Sitra house, which was crowded with 17 members of 4 Bahraini families. Freedom for Sharif #Bahrain.”

BIRD spoke to his lawyer who attended the interview at the prosecution office. Below are tweets which are under investigation.

Commenting, Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Advocacy Director at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD):

“These accusations are absurd. No one should be arrested for freely expressing their views or questioning how the government is spending public funds. McLaren’s leadership must speak out on his arrest or else their brand will be stained by Bahrain’s abuses.”

Social media posts which led to Sherif’s arrest

Sharif Post I:

Translation (English)
Posted 24 March 2024 (at 11.24AM GST)

{{Stop them, for they are responsible}}

Denial is an official policy, and the narrative of “a happy people” is promoted by superficial media outlets.

Do we believe what officials repeat and find resonance in complicit media, or do we believe what our eyes see, our ears hear, and our feelings sense about citizens living in miserable poverty, chronic unemployment, marginalisation, class disparities, and housing waiting lists that extend until the end of their days?

What the state spent on McLaren Racing last year is multiples of what it spent on housing projects. Do people die of despair or burning in their overcrowded homes because you prioritise your hobbies and games over the interests of the poor?

Sharif Post II (on thread to Post I):

Translation (English)
Posted 24 March 2024 (at 9.22PM GST)
In response to a question regarding my comment that the government’s spending on #McLaren through “Mumtalakat” [Bahrain Sovereign Wealth Fund] in 2023 is multiples of what it spent on housing:

🏡 Housing Projects Budget 2023 = 90 million dinars [approx £189 million]

(Note: The Gulf Marshall Fund also funds some housing projects, but this funding is outside the budget and ends with the conclusion of the Marshall Plan)

🏎️ Amount injected by Mumtalakat into McLaren in 2023 = 213 million dinars [over £447 million]

Post III:

Translation (English)
Posted 23 March 2024

“‘History repeats itself twice, the first time as tragedy and the second time as farce.’
(Karl Marx)

When Bahrain acquired full shares of Gulf Air (after buying shares from Abu Dhabi and Qatar), our losses and the amounts needed annually to prevent its bankruptcy doubled.

With #McLaren, we have moved from tragedy to farce. We have completed another cycle of owning failed companies with bottomless losses.

In the case of Gulf Air, it is possible—with some reservation about the management of the company—to understand the government’s continued support and funding as it is the backbone of Bahrain’s airport and its presence is crucial for the employment of a large number of Bahraini pilots and employees. But McLaren does not employ a single Bahraini, not even in the rank of a messenger, so what is the wisdom in doubling our investment in a bankrupt company??”

Mr Sharif was released on Thursday 28 March 2024.

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