F1 controversy: Hague calls Bahrain after protester death

Formula One has sparked condemnation by deciding to hold the race in Bahrain.
Formula One has sparked condemnation by deciding to hold the race in Bahrain.
Ian Dunt By

William Hague has called the foreign minister of Bahrain to express "concern" about violence in the country as it holds the Formula One Grand Prix.

The event has been beset by controversy, with human rights demonstrators saying it glorifies a repressive government.

Tensions were heightened even further yesterday when the bullet-strewn body of a protester was found on a village rooftop after clashes with police.

"I spoke to the foreign minister of Bahrain today to express our concern about the violence in Bahrain, to call for restraint in dealing with protests including during the Formula One race and to urge further progress in implementing political reforms," the foreign secretary said.

Speaking to Sky News, justice secretaryKen Clarke defended the government's decision not to demand the F1 cancel the event.

"You can't start moving sporting events around in order to avoid outbreaks of opinion about local politics," he said.

"International sports like Formula One are held in quite a lot of territories where the local human rights culture is controversial, not least the People's Republic of China."

Around 7,000 protesters demanded democratic reform yesterday as the Shia majority continue to push for an end of the minority Sunnis' grip on power.

The interior ministry tried to calm tempers by launching a homicide investigation into the death of the protester, although there were reports that his family were being denied access to the body by security services.

At least 50 people have been killed in the tiny kingdom since unrest began in February 2011.

While the Bahraini government wanted to use the Grand Prix to move on from the protests TV images have been filled with scenes of conflict, prompting second thoughts among the global brands who backed the event.

Demonstrators gathered outside the F1's headquarters in London yesterday to express their concern at the decision, which has been studiously ignored by drivers and F1 officials.

British driver Lewis Hamilton failed to mention the protests when asked if he had a message to his fans in the Middle East.

"I'm very much appreciative of all the support that they give me and I hope that many of them come this weekend," he said.

The British government refused to call for the cancellation of the event, saying it was "a matter for Formula One", but Labour leader Ed Miliband said the race should not go ahead.


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