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Protests coincide with Bahrain's Grand Prix

April 19, 2013 at 7:56 AM

MANAMA, Bahrain, April 19 (UPI) -- Opposition groups called for a day of rage Friday to coincide with practice runs for the F1 Grand Prix in Bahrain, officials said.

Protesters blocked roads using burning tires and police fired tear gas and used stun grenades as violence intensified over the past week leading up to the race, the BBC reported.

Major opposition group al-Wefaq called for a large protest Friday, but insisted it does not want the race to be canceled, just for its concerns to be heard on a larger scale, Sky News reported.

Some activists, including Human Rights Watch have insisted the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile and Formula One Management cancel the race due to the country's poor human rights record, the BBC said.

"Bahrain is ready to host the F1 and there are no security issues," government spokeswoman Samira Rajab said.

Bahrain's human rights record has been a frequent target of criticism by international human rights groups since a 2011 uprising left dozens of people dead. The government banned public demonstrations briefly last year. It was condemned recently for considering legislation that would seemingly interfere with the work of civic organizations.

The Grand Prix was canceled in 2011, but went ahead last year, Sky News said.

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