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Human rights group calls for Bahrain GP boycott

NEWS STORY
09/01/2012

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has urged F1's powers that be to boycott the country's Grand Prix amidst continued unrest and oppression.

"The government wants Formula One to tell the outside world that everything is back to normal," said Nabeel Rajab, vice president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. "Formula One, if they come, they are helping the government. We would prefer it if they didn't take part. I am sure the drivers and teams respect human rights.

"If it's on the calendar. We'll be there, unless something terrible happens to stop us," he added. "We will campaign for drivers and teams to boycott."

Rajab's call comes amidst growing concern in the US at claims he was beaten by the security forces. A senior US official admitting to Reuters that while the facts of the case are in dispute, Washington is concerned about frequent claims that Bahraini police use excessive force against protesters.

It is claimed that security officers threw Rajab to the ground and beat him on the head, neck and back during a confrontation after a protest march on Friday. The interior ministry subsequently denied the claim via Twitter, insisting that police found Rajab "lying on the ground" and took him to the hospital for treatment.

"We are very concerned about this case," said the US official, who wished to remain anonymous, revealing that a US embassy official has since visited Mr Rajab.

"The facts here are in dispute," he said, "but we have expressed to the government our real concern about the case. What we are urging the government to do is to conduct a full investigation and, if excessive force was used by the police, they need to hold the relevant people accountable."

After the debacle of 2011, when the event was only cancelled (by the Bahrainis) after the teams raised concerns about the logistics of rescheduling the event, it had been hoped that the sport would take notice and learn from its mistakes.

However, speaking in November, Bernie Ecclestone said he felt confident the 2012 race would go ahead, insisting that all appeared to be well in the country and that he didn't think the race would become a focal point for protesters.

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