Week of protests planned ahead of Bahrain GP

Pro-democracy protestors in Bahrain are hoping to capitalize on the extra media attention surrounding next week's Bahrain Grand Prix with a week of demonstrations ahead of the race.
On Sunday Bahrain's largest Shiite opposition party, Al-Wefaq, told AFP that it is organising protests over the next seven days to "take advantage of this week's race to highlight our political and democratic demands." Although Al-Wefaq is planning peaceful demonstrations and sit-ins away from the circuit, the "Revolution of February 14" youth group has called for "three days of rage" from April 20 to 22 to coincide with the race.

The news follows more reports of violence in Bahrain over the weekend, including the shooting of a 15-year-old youth by anti-riot police at a funeral on Saturday. The Daily Telegraph reported that opposition activists said the youth was hit in the chest when police fired tear gas and live rounds at mourners.

Human rights groups Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International have also passed comment on the FIA's decision to run the grand prix next weekend. An HRW statement said the race "gives Bahrain's rulers the opportunity they are seeking to obscure the seriousness of the country's human rights situation."

While an Amnesty statement said little had changed in the country since last year's Bahrain Grand Prix was postponed and eventually called off by the organizers.

"Holding the grand prix in Bahrain in 2012 risks being interpreted by the government of Bahrain as symbolizing a return to business as usual," Amnesty said on Friday. "The international community must not turn a blind eye to the ongoing human rights crisis in the country. The government must understand that its half-hearted measures are not sufficient – sustained progress on real human rights reform remains essential.

"Despite the authorities' claims to the contrary, state violence against those who oppose the Al Khalifa family rule continues, and in practice, not much has changed in the country since the brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters in February and March 2011."

On Friday Bernie Ecclestone told reporters that the teams are happy to race, adding: "There's nothing happening. I know people who live there and it's all very quiet and peaceful." ESPNF1

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