Just a week ahead of what has been stressed will be the final deadline for organisers of the cancelled Bahrain Grand Prix
to convince the FIA that the Gulf state is in a position to be readmitted to the F1 2011 calendar, it has emerged that almost a quarter of staff at the Sakhir circuit have been arrested, suspended or dismissed.
The ongoing state-of-emergency declared in Bahrain on 15 March – just after the curtain-raising grand prix should
have taken place – will end on 1 June, two days before the FIA is due to decide on the race's fate.
However, despite assurances that the civil unrest and riots that have plagued the desert kingdom since mid-February are now under control and a confident declaration from Bahrain International Circuit
(BIC) chairman Zayed Rashed Al Zayani that 'we are ready' to host the grand prix [see separate story – click here
], significant doubts remain.
Contrary to the message being spread to the watching world by Bahrain's rulers, many in the paddock suspect that stability is still a long way off and that the violent clashes and protests are no closer to being resolved than they were this time three months ago – and may even have worsened. Pitpass
claims that much as in other Arabic nations that have experienced political upheaval in recent months, foreign journalists and photographers have been arrested, imprisoned and interrogated in Bahrain over their reporting of events.
Moreover, the Financial Times
states that in early April, a quarter of BIC
staff were arrested for 'cheering the cancellation of the race' – and that the majority of those same staff have since been either suspended or sacked. Three of the employees in question are understood to be women.
“They were all slapping and kicking me as they led me down the corridor,” a source told the newspaper. “He [a policeman] put my head between his legs, flipped me onto the floor – and then the beatings really began.”
There has been no official comment from the circuit, but government spokesman Sheikh Abdulaziz bin Mubarak al-Khalifa insisted: “Allegations are exaggerated or unfounded to gain international sympathy. They should issue a complaint to the authorities.”