Democracy and human rights activists in Bahrain have criticized David Beckham and other celebrities for attending Sunday's Formula 1 race in the Gulf state.
The 43-year-old former England captain posted a photo of himself waving the checkered flag at the Bahrain Grand Prix for his 55 million followers on the Instagram and was also seen by Crown Prince Salman.
Beckham, however, was not the only recognizable face at the Grand Prix such as Prince Andrew, his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson and his daughter Princess Beatrice were also there as real guests with director Guy Ritchie, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones and television. presenter Carol Vorderman also spotted.
But in a statement released to Press Association Sport on Monday, Bahrain Institute for Defense and Democracy's defense director Ahmed Alwadaei said: "It is unpleasant to see David Beckham taking advantage of the Bahrain GP and shaking hands with the tyrants of Bahrain ".
"As he smiles at the camera waving at the flag of the Grand Prix, he must not forget the thousands of political prisoners who are imprisoned for being against repression.
"He must remember activist Najah Yusuf, who paid a heavy price for opposing the dispute in 2017, and is now languishing in prison after being subjected to sexual assault and abuse."
Representatives of Beckham, who played for Manchester United, Real Madrid, Los Angeles Galaxy, Milan and Paris Saint-Germain during a successful career, did not respond to a request from PA Sport to comment on the matter.
Yusuf's case was one of several deployed by human rights groups in preparation for the race as it is alleged that she was sentenced to three years in prison in 2017 for simply criticizing the government and opposing the Bahrain Grand Prix in a series. of social media posts.
Bahrain has been a controversial F1 host since entering the race calendar in 2004, with the 2011 edition canceled after a violent crackdown on anti-government protests.
There were appeals from inside and outside the sport to leave Bahrain permanently, but Formula 1 returned in 2012 and the sport ignored criticism of the nation's poor human rights record ever since.
Speaking to PA Sport, Amnesty UK's chief policy officer Allan Hogarth said: "The clear accommodation of Formula 1 is seen by the authorities in Bahrain as another opportunity to wash their image and divert attention from the country's severe restrictions on freedoms basic.
"It would be great to see some of the high profile sports fans flying the flag of human rights, and speaking on behalf of the brave people there like Nabeel Rajab, sentenced and sentenced to five years in prison simply for tweeting about the war in Yemen and torture in prisons ".
While Aya Majzoub, a Bahrain researcher for Human Rights Watch, said: "Those involved in the Bahrain Grand Prix should ask if they are helping to animate a government that tortures and arrests peaceful critics."
F1 generally tries to avoid commenting on the policy of its hosts, but made a statement to PA Sport last week in response to Human Rights Watch's criticism of the Yusuf case.
"We continue to remind all our promoters, including Bahrain, that peaceful protests at all our events are a democratic right, and we continue to raise our concerns about Yusuf with the Bahraini authorities," he said.
The government of Bahrain has denied that Yusuf has been convicted of criticizing the race, saying she was arrested on anti-terrorism charges, although the IBRD Alwadaei dismissed these allegations as "forged evidence."