Bahrain Grand Prix: MPs appeal for cancellation

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A GROUP of 20 MPs have followed up an early day motion in the House of Commons with a letter to Bernie Ecclestone calling on the Formula 1 supremo to cancel this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

The letter, from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Bahrain, cites “the most atrocious human rights violations” as the reason the race should be called off.

The chair of the APPG, Shadow Justice Minister Andy Slaughter, believes the race “is likely to attract as much negative publicity as last year”.

In the letter, Slaughter adds: “Since April 2012, many more people, including children, have lost their lives and the whole country exists in fear and intimidation. Leading human rights activists, such as Nabeel Rajab, have been imprisoned for merely speaking out against a dictatorship of a ruling family.

“Children, medical staff, men and women languish in jail on the whims of the Al Khalifa (ruling royal family) when no crime has been committed and child deaths are the norm.

“Last year’s championship was held under conditions of martial law. Three hundred protesters were arrested, some spending months in jail. Salah Abbas Habib was killed during the weekend of the race. He was shot by the security forces and his body showed marks of torture.

“I think most democratic-minded people would be appalled if you allowed the Bahrain leg of the Formula One championship to go ahead amidst the most atrocious human rights violations.”

Ecclestone was unmoved last year by a similar call from MPs, when even Labour leader Ed Miliband voiced his opposition to the race, and it is certain his feelings will be the same now. The 82-year-old yesterday did express empathy with the protest, and claimed he would be willing to talk to leaders from both sides if he felt it would help.

Two years ago the race was cancelled following a bloody uprising, resulting in the deaths of a number of protesters. Last year it went ahead as demonstrators armed with Molotov cocktails took on police retaliating with tear gas, sound bombs and birdshot.