Bahrain Grand Prix under fire

Formula One organisers are "burying their heads in the sand" and putting the Grand Prix on in Bahrain ahead of human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch claimed.

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Sebastian Vettel wins Bahrain F1 Grand Prix

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel took his second win in four races this year as he won this year's controversial Formula One Grand Prix in Bahrain.

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel wins the Formula One Grand Prix. Credit: HOCH ZWEI/DPA/Press Association Images

Activists clashed with police and blocked roads into the capital in a bid to disrupt the race.

Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman says a reform process is under way, and denies using Formula 1 for political gain.

More: Protesters and police clash on streets of Bahrain

Protesters and police clash on streets of Bahrain

Bahraini protesters clashed with police today ahead of tomorrow's F1 race in cities across the country, according to activists.

This video, posted by protesters in the northern city of Jidhafs, shows tear gas being thrown amid street battles between activists and police.

ITV News were asked to leave the country and cannot independently verify the video.

Read: ITV News asked to leave Bahrain ahead of Grand Prix

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Police 'fire tear gas at protesters in Bahrain'

Protesters say they tear gas has been fired at protesters in Bahrain.
Protesters say they tear gas has been fired at protesters in Bahrain. Credit: Twitter: @Maryam14Feb

Protesters on the streets of Bahrain have been fired on with tear gas by security forces near Aldaih, west of the capital Al Manama, according to protesters.

Security forces on the streets of Bahrain. Credit: Twitter: @Maryam14Feb

ITV News were asked to leave Bahrain by the country's authorities yesterday and cannot independently verify these pictures.

Read: ITV News asked to leave Bahrain ahead of Grand Prix.

ITV News asked to leave Bahrain ahead of Grand Prix

ITV News special correspondent Rageh Omaar was on assignment in Bahrain.

An ITV News crew has been asked to leave Bahrain by the country's authorities as they reported on the violent clashes taking place in the build-up to the Grand Prix.

The team of five, including ITV News special correspondent Rageh Omaar, were filming in the Gulf nation ahead of Sunday's Formula One race where they were yesterday held and questioned at a police station before being released.

The group, who had the necessary visas permitting them to work there, were then again questioned and taken to a police station today, before being told they must leave the country.

An ITV News spokeswoman said: "Our news team were on assignment with visas approved by the Bahraini authorities.

"Having filed a report last night, they were stopped while filming this morning and taken to a local police station for discussions with officers.

"They have since been asked to leave the country, which they are in the process of doing."

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Bahrain Grand Prix: Protests pose no 'direct threat'

Organisers of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix said sporadic protests against the race and unrest in the country do not pose a "direct threat" to the event.

Zayed Alzayani, the chairman of the Bahrain International Circuit, said the security measures put in place at the circuit this week were no different to those for past races.

"We don't feel there is a direct threat to the track nor have we received any threats to the track," Mr Alzayani said. "But we take everything into account. For us, we want to produce an event that is memorable for those who attended".

Preparations are under way at the Bahrain circuit ahead of Sunday's Grand Prix.
Preparations are under way at the Bahrain circuit ahead of Sunday's Grand Prix. Credit: REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

He insisted that Sunday's race is a unifying force and that a majority of Bahrainis were backing it.

Ticket sales are up 20 percent over past year with 25,000 fans expected at the race, Mr Alzayani said.

"The race has been endorsed by all members of society, including the opposition. If there are people who are against the race, that is fine. They are entitled to express their opinion within the confines of the law", he added.

Video: Bahrain protesters allegedly clash with police

Amateur videos posted on a social media website allegedly show protesters and riot police clashing in Bahrain ahead of Sunday's Formula One Grand Prix.

One of the clips, said to be shot in the village of Nuwaidrat, purports to show masked protesters throwing petrol bombs and lighting tyres in a street. A second clip, also said to be filmed in Nuwaidrat, purports to show riot police firing in the street.

ITV News and Reuters cannot verify the content of these video clips:

F1 boss has 'no concerns' about Bahrain Grand Prix

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone rejected pleas for the Bahrain Grand Prix to be cancelled, saying he had "no concerns" that it would become a target for anti-government protesters.

Mr Ecclestone told Reuters last week that he believed the situation in Bahrain had improved.

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone. Credit: James Moy/James Moy Photography/Press Association Images

"I haven't had any negative reports from anybody there," he said. "Somebody who actually lives there came to see me yesterday and said everything's very normal".

"I think they [both sides] are talking now anyway ... so I don't think they'll upset the talks by making protests", he added.

F1 'ignoring' human rights abuses in Bahrain

Bahrain faces international scrutiny as human rights groups accuse the island kingdom of quashing protests.
Bahrain faces international scrutiny as human rights groups accuse the island kingdom of quashing protests. Credit: PA

Formula One organisers are "burying their heads in the sand" and putting the Grand Prix in Bahrain ahead of human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch claimed today.

The group said international racing bodies responsible for scheduling the race, which begins on Sunday, have taken no steps to address human rights violations linked to the event.

"The Formula 1 organisers apparently prefer to bury their heads in the sand, risking holding their race against repression it has provoked."

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch

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