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Campaigners intensify Bahrain demos

Pressure on the Formula One authorities has continued to build after a man was found dead following clashes with police in Bahrain.

It has been claimed that Salah Habib Abbas, 37, was killed by shotgun pellets fired by riot police after a raid on Friday night on the outskirts of the capital Manama. Around 50,000 anti-government protesters gathered in the city, just 25 miles away from where the controversial grand prix meeting is under way.

A car carrying four personnel from racing team Force India was caught up in a petrol bomb incident on Wednesday night as it made its way back from the Bahrain International Circuit. None of the four were injured but two team members, one of whom was involved in the incident, have since flow home due to fears over safety.

But Jean Todt, president of the sport's governing body the FIA, was adamant his conscience was clear and the reputation of Formula One remained intact.

Mr Todt said: "I am sorry about what has been reported. I am not sure all that has been reported corresponds to the reality of what is happening in this country. But I feel F1 is very strong. It is a very strong brand, and all the people among the teams to whom I have been speaking are very happy."

In Britain, David Cameron resisted pressure to call for the cancellation of the event on Friday, insisting it was a matter for the F1 authorities whether the race should go ahead. It came after Labour leader Ed Miliband and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper added their voices to demands for the event to be called off.

Around 20 people staged a demonstration outside the Formula One office in Knightsbridge, central London. Human rights activist Peter Tatchell attended the protest which was organised by campaign group Justice for Bahrain.

He said: "I would appeal to Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button to withdraw from the Bahrain grand prix. By participating, they'll be giving respectability to the regime. They'll be sending out the message that it's business as usual."

Foreign Secretary William Hague said: "I spoke to the foreign minister of Bahrain to express our concern about the violence in Bahrain, to call for restraint in dealing with protests including during the Formula One race and to urge further progress in implementing political reforms.

"The British Government supports the reforms already under way in Bahrain and we want to help promote that reform."


From Belfast Telegraph