Bahrain F1 circuit ‘fails to reinstate sacked staff’

Activist says promise to rehire staff was ploy to smooth over tensions ahead of April Grand Prix
Bahrain F1 circuit ‘fails to reinstate sacked staff’
Bahrain scrapped its Grand Prix last year following widespread civil unrest
By Elizabeth Broomhall
Mon 23 Jan 2012 12:40 PM

Bahrain’s race circuit, the venue for its April Grand Prix, has failed to reinstate staff fired during last year’s uprising, despite a promise by the Gulf state that it would rehire those suspended.

Just three of the 29 people sacked during the protests have returned to work this month, media reports said, with some refusing to accept terms offered by Bahrain International Circuit (BIC).

Leading local activist Nabeel Rajab said the offer to reinstate the staff was an attempt to deflect attention from calls for a boycott of the planned April race.

“I very strongly believe that [the promise to rehire] was primarily just to get Formula One back,” said Rajab, vice president at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights. “They should not just have reinstated those people, they should have launched an investigation. They don’t know why they were sacked and now they are expected to come back to work without answers?”

Bahrain’s Ministry of Labour said Aug 18 that 2,463 employees had been dismissed since the start of the anti-government uprisings.

Arabian Business reported this month that rights groups in Bahrain had urged F1 teams and fans to boycott the April Grand Prix in protest at abuses in the kingdom.

Bahrain’s season-opening race at Sakhir circuit was cancelled last year after widespread political unrest in the country and the deaths of a number of pro-reform demonstrators.

An independent report into the crackdown on protesters found authorities used “excessive force” and listed the systematic torture of detainees.

Activists in the kingdom have said they will target the F1 race if it goes ahead in April.

Last weekend’s Bahrain Air Show, the island’s first global event since the uprisings, saw protesters burn tyres around Manama in a bid to embarrass the government.

“The Bahrain Air Show was a complete failure,” said Rajab. “The airplanes were lost in a dark cloud of protesters around the area. And of course nobody came.

“We don’t want to see Formula One to come to Bahrain. It’s better for them, it’s better for the Bahrainis and it’s better for human rights if they don’t come this year to Bahrain.”

A spokesperson for BIC was not immediately available for comment.

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