Campaign group hits out at FIA report on Bahrain

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The Independent Online

Global campaigning organisation Avaaz has slammed the FIA's fact-finding report on Bahrain as like "stepping into the Twilight Zone".

It is yet another kick in the teeth for motor sport's world governing body in the wake of their decision on Friday to reinstate the race on the calendar.

The FIA and president Jean Todt have since come in for considerable criticism, not least from former FIA president Max Mosley who highlighted a major flaw in the process.

Despite the apparent unanimous vote at the World Motor Sport Council hearing in Barcelona on Friday, Mosley noted a decision cannot be made law unless there is unanimous approval from all the teams.

Eleven of the marques, under the umbrella of the Formula One Teams' Association, have written a letter to the FIA, Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management and the Bahrain International Circuit claiming they do not want to race in Bahrain this year.

FOTA have urged the Indian Grand Prix be reinstalled on its initial October 30 date and that Bahrain, that had taken up the slot on the back of the WMSC hearing, be held over until the end of the season, should it go ahead at all.

Pressure is growing, however, on the FIA to reverse their decision, not least from human rights groups in the wake of viewing a report made by one of the vice-presidents, Carlos Gracia.

Ricken Patel, executive director at Avaaz whose organisation has so far gathered nearly half a million signatures calling for the race to be called off, said: "Reading the FIA's Bahrain report is like stepping into the Twilight Zone.

"While the FIA's sham report says no human rights have been violated, at least 31 Bahrain citizens have been killed and hundreds more tortured and imprisoned.

"Formula One based their decision to race in Bahrain on this dangerously irresponsible report, a decision now universally opposed by the F1 teams.

"Formula One must pull out of Bahrain immediately or have their reputation forever tarnished."

Gracia claimed in his report, based on a visit whilst martial law was still in effect, that all had returned to normal in Bahrain.

However, Maryam Al-Khawaja, representing the independent Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said: "The report is disastrously unbalanced.

"The FIA has chosen to turn a blind eye to the ongoing violations in Bahrain.

"The government should allow independent human rights groups to do their work in Bahrain."

Gracia, the president of the Spanish motor sport federation, has defended his corner in the wake of the criticism levelled against him.

Speaking to Spanish newspaper AS, Gracia said: "I can only speak about what I saw and that was complete quietness.

"I had official visits and interviews, but I also walked down the street and I was in shopping centres, always with a feeling of complete normality.

"There were people shopping or working. Nothing that caught my attention.

"What I found was an open government that offers the opposition the chance to speak."