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Bahrain denies pre-emptive arrests before F1 race

Apr 10, 2013, 8:50 AM EST

Mideast Bahrain Formula One

The Bahrain government has denied rounding up and arresting members of the political opposition ahead of next week’s F1 race.

Human Rights Watch claims 20 people were arrested including leaders of anti-government protests.

“These raids and detentions suggest that officials are more concerned with getting activists out of circulation for the Formula One race than with addressing the legitimate grievances that have led so many Bahrainis to take to the streets,” said the organization’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson.

A government information minister denied claims the 20 had been unlawfully arrested without warrants being produced.

“We discredit any news of such arrests in recent days or even months,” said Bahrain information minister Sameera Rajab. “This doesn’t happen in Bahrain. If there is any action against peace and security, it must be dealt with according to law.”

Human Rights Watch claims to have information from local sources that “activists who live in towns close by or next to the track for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix and who have led anti-government protests in the past” have been targeted for arrest since the beginning of the month.

Bernie Ecclestone said last week “I haven’t had any negative reports from anybody there.”

“I don’t think they’ll upset the talks by making protests,” he added. “It didn’t help them last year, so if they had any brains they’d just get on with their talks.”

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