1. ITV Report

Thousands of Bahrainis protest against defiant F1 bosses

An estimated 5,000 people marched through Bahrain capital Manama to protest against the presence of F1. Photo:

Protesters have clashed with police in Bahrain as thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators massed in the capital Manama on the opening day of the Formula One Grand Prix meeting.

But as Formula One cars took to the Sakhir circuit for practice, Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman al-Khalifa rejected calls from human rights activists and the opposition to cancel Sunday's race, saying that would would "empower extremists".

A parliamentary motion in Britain calling for it to be cancelled "certainly doesn't represent the entire British political system", he said.

He compared the protests taking place in Bahrain to the riots in England last summer:

It goes to show there are people out to cause chaos. You had these problems last year in your country.

There is a big difference between protesting for political right and rioting, and the attack that happened around Force India was aimed at the police, was unprovoked and quite dangerous.

At no time was anyone from Formula One in danger.

The Force India team missed Friday's second practice, citing safety reasons, to make sure staff could get back to their hotels safely before nightfall.

Around 5,000 people marched through Manama to express their dissatisfaction at the presence of the sport in the country at this time.

But, speaking to the BBC, Formula One chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said:

It's nothing to do with us. We have people in all sorts of countries not satisfied with things. We have people in England - I think it's Conservative and Labour that don't agree on things - and that's how the world is.

When asked if he wanted F1 to leave his country, protester Makki Taki said, "yes. As soon as possible. This is not right to come here at this moment."

He held to the camera a picture of his son, who, he said, was killed last year.

At home, David Cameron resisted pressure to call for the cancellation race, insisting it was a matter for the Formula One authorities whether the race should go ahead on Sunday.

Paul Davies rounds up the British political reaction to the F1's presence in Bahrain:

And Labour leader Ed Miliband added his voice today to demands for the race to be called off, urging the Prime Minister to do the same.

Mr Miliband said it would send out the wrong signal for the Grand Prix to go ahead at a time of protests over human rights abuses in the Gulf kingdom.

But the Prime Minister said it was "a matter for Formula One", adding: "It's important that peaceful protests are allowed to go on."

Speaking during a visit to Preston, Mr Cameron said there was "a process of reform under way in Bahrain" and added: "This Government backs that reform and wants to help promote that reform."

But some 17 MPs signed a cross-party motion at Westminster calling for the race to be called off, warning that it will be used by the Bahrain government as "an endorsement of its policies of suppression of dissent".

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