DUBAI: Bahrain has arrested several people accused of stealing and burning cars amid heightened security in the island kingdom ahead of Sunday’s Formula 1 race, which the opposition sees as a chance to publicize a pro- democracy.
Watched by millions around the world, the Grand Prix is the biggest sporting event hosted by the allied nation of the United States and the government is hoping for good turnout for this year’s race despite continued violent unrest.
The Gulf Arab state, where the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet is based, has been plagued by unrest since pro-democracy protests erupted in early 2011, putting it at the forefront of the regional struggle between the Shia Muslim Iran and Sunni Arabic. States like Saudi Arabia.
Bahrain’s official news agency said Wednesday night that authorities arrested a man who later confessed to an incident in which a car burned and exploded in the country’s financial district on April 14.
Four other people accused of stealing and burning a car near a roundabout were also arrested and another person was arrested for blocking a main road and causing damage to a Bahrain man’s car.
The race at the Sakhir desert circuit was canceled in 2011 when protests were crushed and at least 35 people were killed. Activists put the death toll much higher.
Last year’s race was held against the backdrop of burning tires and riot police firing tear gas at protesters throwing Molotov cocktails in Shia Muslim villages.
Bahrain’s main opposition bloc called for more peaceful pro-democracy protests ahead of the race, saying the global spotlight shone on the kingdom by the Grand Prix would help present its message of reform.
Amnesty International said human rights activists claimed dozens of protesters were arrested ahead of the race.
“Authorities are trying to use the Grand Prix as a platform to show progress, claiming that the human rights situation has improved, while stepping up the crackdown to ensure nothing harms their image. public,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Central Representative of Amnesty International. deputy director of the East and North Africa program in a statement released on Wednesday.
“We only see repressions and symbolic gestures to clean up the country’s image,” Sahraoui added.
Human Rights Watch said on April 10 that police arrested 20 opposition activists in towns near the circuit with the apparent intention of preventing a repeat of the 2012 protests.
The government has denied that these arrests took place. He also denies accusations by rights groups that he used excessive force to quell protests and says he is arresting suspects in accordance with the rule of law. (Reuters)