Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters too to the streets of Manana on Friday evening, demanding that the Grand Prix on Sunday is cancelled.
Clashes between security forces and protesters ramped up ahead of the first free practice session, and the situation remained tense all Friday long. Friday’s massive rally was organised by Shia political blocs, including the main groups al-Wefaq and al-Waad, and the demonstration was approved by the government. According to John Yates, the former assistant coomissioner for the Metropolitan Police, now hired by the Bahraini police to work on a police reform, said that the police were allowed to fire live rounds against the opposition.
“If the opposition started firing live ammunition, the police would respond with live,” said Yates.
About hundred protesters broke off the main demonstration, and that´s when the police fired tear gas and stun grenades against the group, who were headed to Pearl Square, the centre for the opposition last year.The roundabout is now heavily guarded by police.
Al Jazeera reports:
“The unrest has intensified in the lead-up to the race, including riot police clashing with opposition supporters in the predominantly Shia villages that ring Manama.
“Al-Wefaq leaders said at least 50 people have been injured in the past two days when security forces fired pellets to disperse protesters on several occasions.
“Additional security forces deployed this week, setting up checkpoints on Friday on roads leading to the Bahrain International Circuit, the location of the race, and increasing their presence across Manama.”
There are also reports that at least one person was killed during the clashes, this is yet to be confirmed.
Meanwhile, the daughter of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, the Bahraini-born Danish citizen on hungerstrike now for more than 70 days, have been arrested in Manana, as she tried to visit her father at the hospital. She was later released.
The situation for al-Khawaja is critical and according to his daughter, he has asked his lawyer to draft a last will.
“My father just called, he asked us to try and get his lawyer to visit him,in order to finalise a will,” said Zainab al-Khawaja. She also says that her father has stated, if he could turn back the time, he would do it all again. Through her daughter, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja said:
“If I die within the next 24 hours, I urge people to continue the peaceful resistance.”
The Danish ambassador in Bahrain, Christian Kønigsfeldt, has not been able to visit al-Khawaja, for over a week, a worrying development, says Ole Egberg Mikkelsen, the head of The Foreign Ministers Citizen Service in Denmark.
“It is true, that our ambassador hasn´t been able to access [al-Khawaja] for a week. And that of course is very worrying, that we no longer has the same access as before.”