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Bahrain: call for release of POCs as country hosts Grand Prix this weekend

Anti-F1 graffito in Bahrain in 2012 © STR/AFP/Getty Images
‘Behind the fast cars and the victory laps lies a government that is tightening its chokehold on any remnant of dissent’ - James Lynch
Amnesty International is calling on the Bahraini authorities to mark the country’s staging of the Grand Prix this weekend by immediately and unconditionally releasing all prisoners of conscience held in the country. 
These include three prominent political opponents - Sheikh ‘Ali Salman, Ebrahim Sharif and Fadhel Abbas Mahdi Mohamed - as well as prominent human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, who was arrested and taken into custody on 14 March along with her baby son Hadi, to serve a prison sentence handed down after she tore up a photo of the Bahraini king. Meanwhile, other political opponents arrested in 2011 remain behind bars. 
Amnesty International Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director James Lynch said:
“Behind the fast cars and the victory laps lies a government that is tightening its chokehold on any remnant of dissent in the country by stepping up arrests, intimidation and harassment of political opposition, critics and activists. 
“The alarming erosion of human rights in Bahrain in recent years means that anyone who dares to criticise the authorities or call for reform risks severe punishment.
“The modest reforms introduced after the 2011 uprising have demonstrably failed to live up to the hopes and promises they raised to protect and promote human rights.” 
Away from the spotlight of Formula One Grand Prix, said Amnesty, a range of appalling human rights violations are still unfolding in Bahrain. Repressive practices in the country include restrictions on freedom of assembly and association, with demonstrations banned in the capital, Manama; a lack of accountability of the security forces involved in killings and torture; courts handing down lengthy sentences after grossly unfair trials; and the increased use of extreme and unlawful measures to silence dissent, such as banishing individuals from the country after revoking their citizenship   

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