Formula One chief denies Bahrain crackdown ahead of race

16th Apr 2013

Formula One CEO Bernie Ecclestone has dismissed human rights concerns over this week’s Bahrain Grand Prix after the government arrested dozens of activists ahead of the race.

Bahrainis have staged days of anti-government demonstrations which escalated with an explosion Sunday night in the capital Manama.

“There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be (a success),” Ecclestone, a British business magnate considered the primary authority on Formula One racing, told AFP at the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai.

Authorities said Monday that a “terrorist group” used a gas cylinder to blow up a car overnight in Manama. Nobody was hurt in the explosion.

The anti-government February 14 Movement claimed responsibility for the blast on Twitter, saying it was aimed at disrupting “activity in Manama’s financial center in opposition to holding the Formula One race.”

The opposition is organizing a week of protests that began on Friday to coincide with the Grand Prix.

Last week, police fired tear gas and sound bombs to attack hundreds of people demonstrating against the race, witnesses said.

Pictures posted to Twitter showed people with bruised and bloodied bodies suffering from birdshot wounds and other injuries. Ecclestone said he wasn’t even aware of any current protests.

“What’s happened? They’re demonstrating now? I didn’t know that,” a seemingly unaware Ecclestone said. “There’s nobody demonstrating.”

The 82-year-old was also unconcerned about a report from Human Rights Watch that police in the Gulf state have been rounding up pro-democracy activists in the run-up to the Grand Prix.

The Bahrain Center for Human Rights said last week that authorities had launched a number of overnight raids in villages near the circuit and detained youths without showing warrants.

Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that Bahraini police had arrested 20 opposition activists. Bahrain’s government denied any arrests had taken place.

A Saudi-led Gulf force entered Bahrain in March 2011 in an attempt to crush a popular uprising that had erupted the month before, but protests still occur almost daily. The 2011 Grand Prix was postponed and later cancelled.

Over 80 people have been killed in violence since February 2011, according to activists.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)


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