Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that police had arrested 20 opposition activists in towns near Bahrain’s Formula One circuit in a sign of rising political tension before the Grand Prix on April 21. However, the Bahraini government denied any arrests had taken place.
Watched by millions around the world, the Grand Prix is the biggest sporting event hosted by the U.S.-allied country and the government is hoping for a big turnout at this year’s event.
An HRW statement said the detentions were made without a warrant and with the apparent intention of preventing a repeat of protests during last year’s race, which went ahead against a backdrop of burning tires and riot police firing teargas at petrol-bomb throwing protesters in Shiite Muslim villages.
But Information Minister Sameera Rajab told Reuters: “We discredit any news of such arrests in recent days or even months.”
Nobody could be arrested without a warrant, he said.
“This doesn’t happen in Bahrain. If there is any action against peace and security, it must be dealt with according to law.”