Bahrain Grand Prix Should Be Cancelled Insist MPs, As Fears Grow Over Violent Protests

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BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX
The grand prix should not go ahead, say government ministers | PA

The Bahrain Grand Prix should be cancelled insists the shadow home secretary as the Gulf state braces itself for further violent demonstrations following months of political unrest.

Yvette Cooper said British Formula One stars Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton should not take part in the controversial three-day event, which is expected to be beset by a wave of protests from pro-democracy campaigners when it begins on Friday.

Speaking on BBC's Question Time, the shadow home secretary said: "It shouldn't go ahead, I don't think British drivers should go, I think the Formula One should not go ahead in Bahrain.

"You have got demonstrations by democratic protesters who have been violently suppressed and although it should be a matter for the sport to decide rather than for the government, I do think government ministers can express an opinion. That opinion should be it should not go ahead, it would sent the wrong signal, it should not happen."

Cooper joins a growing number of politicians and human rights campaigners who have called on organisers to pull the plug on the event because of the regime's crackdown on demonstrators.

Written across protest boards and shouted in the capital, the slogan of demonstrators in Manama is "don't race over our blood."

Respect MP George Galloway said the tracks of the Middle Eastern race circuit were "stained by the blood of the people who are asking for a vote". He said: "There is blood on the tracks and anyone who drives over then will never be forgiven."

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Earlier this week shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander also said proceeding would "send the wrong signal", while Amnesty International said human rights violations are continuing in the Gulf kingdom despite government promises that the country is on the road to reform.

In a recent report, the campaign group said security forces were still using excessive and unnecessary force against anti-government protesters. The charity also said it was receiving ongoing reports of the torture and ill-treatment of demonstrators, who have been involved in ongoing clashes with police.

The 2011 race was cancelled as international criticism grew over the bloodshed, but despite calls for F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone to scrap this year's event it looks certain to go ahead. Security around the event has has been significantly ramped up with the main race taking place on Sunday.

British F1 star Jenson Button refused to become embroiled in the issue. When asked about the situation, the McLaren driver said: "You are here interviewing me as a driver and that's exactly what I am going to talk about - motor racing. The outside issues, I'm not going to talk about."

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