Protests, clashes in Bahrain ahead of Grand Prix
Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters in Bahrain marched on the outskirts of the capital demanding political reforms on Friday, as tensions mounted ahead of the weekend's F1 Grand Prix race, DPA reported.
The protesters, answering a call by the opposition, chanted slogans calling for the resignation of the government and the release of political prisoners.
They are also demanding that F1 organizers cancel Sunday's race due to alleged human rights abuses by the government.
Police clashes were sparked Friday when supporters of the grassroots protest group, the February 14 Coalition Movement, tried to reach a highway linking the capital Manama to the motorsport venue that hosts the Bahrain Grand Prix. No casualties were reported.
Protesters have lit cars on fire and attempted to block main roads for the past several days.
Bahraini authorities meanwhile said they had deported three journalist on Friday for violating the rules of the Gulf kingdom.
The three work for the British ITN television network and covered the anti-government protests, according to independent sources.
Rights watchdogs Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have accused Bahrain of intensifying a crackdown to crush dissent ahead of the event.
During last year's race, two protesters were shot dead and a youth was killed by a roadside bomb.
The February 14 Coalition is named after a day in 2011 on which demonstrations demanding greater freedoms began in the island kingdom.
Led mainly by the Shiite majority, they were crushed a month later by the Sunni monarchy's security forces with the help of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Sporadic protests have since continued.