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Thu 12 Jan 2012 10:58 AM

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Bahrain race circuit reinstates protest staff

Move comes as F1 bosses speak out on April Grand Prix amid boycott call

Bahrain race circuit reinstates protest staff
Bernie Ecclestone, F1 commercial chief, said the April Grand Prix would go ahead

Bahrain’s race circuit has reinstated employees suspended during last year’s uprising as the Gulf kingdom moves to polish its human rights record ahead of April’s planned Grand Prix.

Bahrain International Circuit, the venue for the formula one race, said the employees would return to work after the government pledged to reinstates staff sacked for supporting the unrest.

“The reinstatement… is part of an important initiative towards national reconciliation and unity for the kingdom,” said Sheikh Salman bin Isa Al-Khalifa, chief executive of BIC.

The statement did not specify how many employees had been reinstated.

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

The statement comes days after Arabian Business reported 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.

“We will do campaign for….drivers and teams to boycott. The government wants Formula One to tell the outside world that everything is back to normal,” Nabeel Rajab, vice president for Bahrain Center for Human Rights, told Arabian Business.

“Formula One, if they come, they are helping the government to say [it is normal]. We would prefer it if they didn’t take part. I am sure the drivers and teams respect human rights.”

The bosses of Formula 1 teams Red Bull and Ferrari said on Wednesday they would let the sport's governing body decide whether to race in Bahrain this year.

“We enter a championship run by the FIA and we need to trust in their decision,” Red Bull team boss Christian Horner was quoted as saying by BBC Sport. “They have a closer overview than we do, I know they have been looking at it.”

His counterpart at Ferrari, Stefano Domenicali, said his team would follow the recommendations of both the FIA and F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.

“We need to be very cool and realistic on that, so we need to rely on what the official authorities, who have this responsibility, will tell us.”

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said in November he would press ahead with plans to return the race to Bahrain and did not believe the Grand Prix would become a focal point for protesters.

“It's on the calendar. We'll be there, unless something terrible happens to stop us,” he said.

Bahrain reportedly paid around £25m ($39.2m) in hosting fees for last year’s scrapped three-day race, after refusing an offer of a refund from F1’s Jersey-based parent company, Delta Topco.

“They have internal politics and I doubt very much whether they'd use international matters to sort out internal politics,” Ecclestone added.

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