Protesters Fail To Stop Bahrain Grand Prix

April 22nd, 20129:49 pm @

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Protesters Fail To Stop Bahrain Grand Prix

The Formula One grand prix has finished in Bahrain amid tight security, as pro-democracy demonstrators oppose security forces.

Two-time world champion Sebastian Vettel held off a charging Kimi Raikkonen to win the incident-free race, for his first victory of the season.

Red Bull Formula One driver Vettel punches the air after winning the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix at the Sakhir circuit in Manama

Race winner Sebastian Vettel led from the start to the finish

 

The race had been overshadowed most of last week by clashes between riot police and anti-government demonstrators in the divided Gulf nation, but was held without a hitch.

Security checkpoints had been boosted ahead of the race and there were no signs of protests near the circuit.

Earlier, King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa, who attended the controversial race, said in a statement he wanted “to make clear my personal commitment to reform and reconciliation in our great country”.

He insisted substantial progress had already been made, adding: “The door is always open for sincere dialogue amongst all our people.”

His statement came a day after claims surfaced that anti-government protester Salah Habib Abbas, 37, was killed by shotgun pellets fired by security forces.

Mr Abbas’ funeral could take place later today, which led to concerns about security at the F1 race.

Bahrain protester Salah Abbas Habib found dead on a rooftop in the village of Shakhoura

Salah Abbas Habib (Pic: Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights)

 

Armoured vehicles and barbed wire were deployed along the main road leading from the capital, Manama, to the racetrack in an attempt to contain any protests disrupting the event.

Violent disturbances have intensified in recent days with around 50,000 protesters gathering around Manama and fighting pitched battles with security officials.

Petrol bombs have been hurled at security officials, tyres set ablaze and anti-grand prix graffiti daubed on walls in ugly scenes which have marred the Gulf kingdom in recent days.

Meanwhile, riot police used rounds of tear gas and pepper spray to disperse throngs of protesters who demanded democracy and the cancellation of the race.

Activists posted numerous videos online of protests, which could not be independently verified, including blockading a motorway with a barricade of burning tyres.

Despite the ongoing violence, government spokesman Sheikh Abdulaziz told Sky News from Manama that people in Bahrain were “ecstatic” about the event.

“There are pockets of violence, but none of those have affected the events of the race,” he said.

:: Read a timeline of events leading to the F1 controversy here

UK Justice Secretary Ken Clarke told Sky News that the event should not be cancelled.

“I don’t think the cancellation of the grand prix actually would make a very great deal of difference,” he said.

 

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“And I don’t think it’s a matter for politicians in Britain to decide whether to or not.

“Essentially in the end it’s up to Formula One and the people who run the sport and the teams.

“You can’t start moving sporting events around in order to try to avoid outbreaks of opinion about the local politics or international politics.”

Mr Clarke said reforms in Bahrain are “moving in the right direction”.

“I hope both sides show restraint,” he said.

Meanwhile, Mercedes and McLaren team bosses Ross Brawn and Martin Whitmarsh criticised British politicians for what they believe is a belated stance on the grand prix.

Mr Brawn said: “I find it very frustrating that politicians in the UK were saying we should withdraw once we got here. Why didn’t they say anything beforehand?”

He went on: “For somebody to try and make Jenson Button or Lewis Hamilton determine the foreign policy of the country is wrong.”

Prime Minister David Cameron has resisted pressure to call for the cancellation of the event, insisting it was a matter for the F1 authorities.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone had earlier insisted it was down to the Bahrainis to cancel their grand prix.

Article source: http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/World-News/Grand-Prix-Bahrain-King-Makes-Promise-On-Reforms-Amid-Tight-Security-At-F1-Race/Article/201204416213553?f=rss