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BAHRAIN: Human rights, online activists urge Formula One not to return

June 2, 2011 |  4:13 pm

Formula One authorities are expected to decide Friday whether Bahrain will be allowed to host a Grand Prix event this year.

The event was postponed in February after protests erupted against the Sunni monarchy in the majority Shiite gulf state. Bahrain's royal family imposed military rule for three months and brought in Saudi and United Arab Emirates troops in mid-March to snuff out protests, detaining protesters and sentencing them in military courts.

Human Rights First, the U.S.-based nonprofit, issued a statement Thursday reminding Formula One  officials of recent reports that peaceful protesters across Bahrain have been attacked by security forces even after the king lifted a state of emergency Wednesday.

"Bahrain’s inability to ease sectarian tensions proves it is not ready to host the race," Human Rights First said in the statement.

Earlier this week, Human Rights First issued a statement urging the U.S. government to demand that Bahraini authorities protect human rights defenders after Bahrain's emergency laws were lifted.

"Continued human rights violations indicate that the Bahraini government is unable to respect and protect basic rights of freedoms of assembly and expression, and further suggest the nation is incapable of hosting a major international sporting event," the latest statement said.

"After months of violent crackdown, the Bahraini government should start protecting human rights," said Brian Dooley, who has worked with Human Rights First to document human rights abuses in Bahrain.

"Do the Formula One authorities and the brands that support them really want to be associated with a Bahraini government that seizes people in the middle of the night and tortures them? With disappearances and deaths in custody?" Dooley said. "Awarding the Grand Prix to the repressive regime will disappoint Formula One fans everywhere."

An online petition posted Thursday asking Formula One teams to boycott the Bahrain event had more than 200,000 signatures.

"We call on you to declare publicly that you won't race in Bahrain this year, because the government has killed and injured hundreds of innocent people standing up for their rights," it said.

-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo

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