Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone (Reuters)

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has said he is not concerned over Bahrain once again hosting a grand prix despite ongoing pro-democracy protests and the government's decision to ban all rallies and public gatherings.

"I wasn't concerned this year and I'm not concerned for next year," Ecclestone said.

The Bahraini Grand Prix took place in April despite worldwide calls for a boycott, against the backdrop of violence on the streets of Manama which caused death and injury during the race weekend.

Ecclestone has long been one of the main supporters of the Grand Prix, even when it was cancelled in 2011 because of pro-democracy protests and a subsequent government clampdown.

Britain, which entertains a privileged relationship with the tiny Gulf kingdom, came under pressure to boycott the grand prix to avoid a fresh crackdown on pro-democracy protests. However Cameron refused to put pressure on Bahrain, arguing that the country "is not Syria" and reforms were under way.

Last month, MPs from the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) published a report that slammed the UK government for holding double standards on human rights issues.

"We find it difficult to discern any consistency of logic behind the government's policy in not taking a public stance on the Bahrain Grand Prix but implementing at least a partial boycott of the 2012 Uefa football championship matches played in Ukraine," the committee said.

Britain has recently signed a defence agreement with the Gulf kingdom to "bolster Bahrain's security with regards to its regional standing, as well as its internal stability".

Ecclestone also raised the possibility of a third grand prix in the Gulf, this time in Qatar.

"Let's see. Let's see what comes out of it," he said, referring to officials who are trying to get the licence to allow Qatari to host F1 teams for testing.

Jailed for a tweet

Ecclestone's statement came after a Bahraini court sentenced one of the four men who have been convicted for defaming king Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa on Twitter to six months in prison.

The court also ordered the activist's laptop and mobile to be seized.

Criticising King Hamad and other members of the al-Khalifa ruling family is forbidden in Bahrain.

"Bahrain recently changed their laws to be tougher on those who use Twitter to criticise the regime," Dominic Kavakeb, political strategist for the Bahrain Justice & Development Movement, told IBTimes UK.

Bahrain's cyber defamation laws were reviewed in September, resulting in heavier monitoring of social media networks.

In October, activist and human rights defender Zainab Al-Khawaja, daughter of renowned human rights campaigner Abdulhadi, was released after serving a two-month prison sentence for ripping up a photo of the king of Bahrain. She is expecting verdicts on several cases in the coming weeks.