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Bahrain tightens noose ahead of Grand Prix

BEIRUT, Lebanon, April 10 (UPI) -- Dozens of Bahraini activists were arrested in the latest government crackdown ahead of next week's Grand Prix race, Human Rights Watch said Wednesday.

Bahrain hosts a three-day Formula 1 Grand Prix event starting April 19. Human Rights Watch reports that masked, plainclothes police officers have cracked down on opposition groups ahead of the race.

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"These raids and detentions suggest that officials are more concerned with getting activists out of circulation for the Formula 1 race than with addressing the legitimate grievances that have led so many Bahrainis to take to the streets," Middle East director for Human Rights Watch Sarah Leah Whitson said from Beirut.

The rights group said 20 opposition supporters were arrested in recent days. Whitson said most of them were arrested without a warrant.

Bahrain's human right 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.

"This latest crackdown and the way it's being carried out raises new questions about the Bahraini authorities' commitment to reform," Whitson said.

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Bahrain says it's committed to a series of reforms recommended by an inquiry probing the response to the 2011 uprising.

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