Bahrain Grand Prix: British TV Crew Held By Police

A British TV crew were held and questioned at a police station in Bahrain as they filmed ahead of Sunday's Grand Prix.

The ITV team of five had travelled to the Gulf nation on an official visa but were detained by the authorities earlier on Thursday.

Conflicting reports of the situation in Bahrain are emerging ahead of the Grand Prix

An ITV News spokeswoman said: "We can confirm we have an ITV News team in Bahrain on a trip approved by the Bahraini authorities who issued their visas.

"They were taken to a local police station after being stopped from filming earlier today. They were not arrested.

"After discussions with officers there they have now been allowed to continue with their assignment."

This is not the first time British TV crews have fallen foul of the Bahrain authorities. Last year, Channel 4 journalist Jonathan Miller and his team were arrested and then deported on the day of the grand prix for filming without accreditation.

Referring to the protests against the race as 'sporadic', Zayed Alzayani, the chairman of the Bahrain International Circuit, said the unrest in the country does not pose a "direct threat" to the GP.

The Bahrain opposition claims that more activists have been detained in the weeks leading up to the Grand Prix

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".

He claimed that Sunday's race, which is biggest event in the country and brings in nearly $220 million, helps to bring the country together and inisted that most Bahrainis were backing it, adding that ticket sales were up 25%.

A representative for the circuit told The Huffington Post UK that grandstand tickets had risen by 15% on last year and were in line with 2010, one of Bahrain GP's busiest year when nearly 100,000 people attended over the three days. Significantly, BIC expects the corporate boxes to be full.

The race was cancelled in 2011 after protests inspired by the Arab Spring began. However, last year the race went ahead in spite of widespread protests that included one protester being killed and a Force India F1 team car getting caught up in petrol bomb protests. Bernie Ecclestone tried to play down the scale of the protests and at one point told reporters to go to Syria and "write about those things because it's more important than here".

The F1 chief has been equally dismissive this year, insisting that his contacts in the country have told him the situation is 'normal'.

However, activists in Bahrain insist that that interpretation is far from the truth with increased arrests and detentions, particularly of people living near the race circuit, something which Amnesty International agrees with.

"We are seeing nothing but crackdowns and token gestures to clean up the country's image," said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Programme director.

"Families wait for justice for their killed relatives, opposition leaders languish in jail and children are detained and tried under the the anti-terrorism laws."

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