Hamilton says Bahrain 'death row' letter hit home

Hamilton received personally addressed letters from three alleged torture victims in Bahrain ahead of a race there two weeks ago and has since read them.

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton is now the most successful grand prix driver of all time.   -  Getty Images

World champion Lewis Hamilton vowed not to ignore pleas to improve human rights in Bahrain and other countries where Formula One hosts races, after reading letters from alleged torture survivors and being sent a drawing from the young son of a Bahraini man on death row.

Hamilton received personally addressed letters from three alleged torture victims in Bahrain ahead of a race there two weeks ago and has since read them.

“I think there’s definitely work to be done in the background and I definitely won’t let it go unnoticed,” the seven-time F1 champion said on Saturday.

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All lives matter

Included with the letters to Hamilton was a photo of 11-year-old Ahmed, who is proudly holding up his drawing of Hamilton’s Mercedes F1 car.

The drawing, which was sent by email to The Associated Press, came with the boy’s personal written plea: Lewis, Please save my father.

“When I was drawing the car I thought that it could save my father,” the boy said. “We struggle every day without him, I really hope he comes back to us.”

He is the son of Mohammed Ramadhan, who in his letter to Hamilton said he was arrested after supporting Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising and then allegedly framed in a murder case and beaten with iron bars to extract his confession. He is facing execution.

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“I think the saddest thing for me was that there’s a young man on death row and it’s not clear ... and when his son writes me a letter it really hits home. All lives matter,” Hamilton said from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“When I get some time now, I will definitely try and speak to (people) and see how I can positively impact that (F1) weekend as a sport moving forwards."

Working together

Bahrain's 2011 race was called off due to civil unrest in the island kingdom and the grand prix, the country's biggest sporting event, regularly draws criticism from rights campaigners.

Hamilton said he wanted to address the human rights issue with Bahrain’s Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa last week in Bahrain — the second of two races to be held there — but had to sit out that race after contracting the coronavirus.

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“I’d hoped after the first race to have had time to sit and address it with the Crown Prince, but I was bed-ridden for most of the week and I wasn’t able to see anybody,” Hamilton said.

“Now, look, ultimately it isn’t necessarily my responsibility to speak up on the places that I don’t know everything about. But I think that we together, always have to work to push for change, for improvements.”