Bahrain Grand Prix: Demonstrations Intensify Ahead Of Sunday's Race (PICTURES)

PA/Huffington Post UK  |  Posted: 21/04/2012 10:01 Updated: 21/04/2012 14:47

The body of a man has been found following clashes between protesters and police overnight in Bahrain. The victim had been shot, according to activists.

The man, who has not been identified, was discovered in the village of Shakoura, close to the capital.

It comes as pro-democracy campaigners are set to intensify demonstrations in Bahrain ahead of Sunday's controversial grand prix following a day of violent clashes with riot police in the Gulf state.

Around 50,000 anti-government protesters gathered in the capital Manama on Friday as Formula One stars took to the track of The Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) just 25 miles away.


An anti-government protester throws a tear gas canister back towards riot police on Friday

Petrol bombs were hurled at security officials and anti-grand prix graffiti was daubed on walls, before the throngs of protesters were dispersed with rounds of tear gas and pepper spray.

Activists billed yesterday as the first of "three days of rage" against Bahrain's rulers with thousands more expected on the streets today demanding democracy and the cancellation of the controversial motorsport event.

However, defiant F1 organisers bosses are refusing to scrap the three-day event despite months of political unrest and the regime's crackdown on demonstrators.

Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman al-Khalifa said that cancelling the race would "empower extremists".

"For those of us trying to navigate a way out of this political problem, having the race allows us to build bridges across communities, to get people working together," he added.

"It allows us to celebrate our nation. It is an idea that is positive, not one that is divisive."


Mclaren driver Jenson Button during a practice session

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone had earlier insisted it was down to the Bahrainis to cancel their grand prix.

Meanwhile, the sport came under attack from cyber anarchists with internet hacking organisation Anonymous announcing they would turn the formula1.com website into "a smoking crater in cyberspace".

The denial-of-service attack, under the title of 'Operation Bahrain' after watching what they perceive as "the incredible human rights abuses of the Bahrain regime", was unleashed shortly after Crown Prince Salman's comments.

Violence has been intensifying in Bahrain ahead of the grand prix.

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A car carrying four personnel from racing team Force India was caught up in a petrol bomb incident on Wednesday night as it made its way back from the BIC.

None of the four were injured, but two team members - one of whom was involved in the incident - have since flow home due to fears over safety.

In Britain, David Cameron on Friday resisted pressure to call for the cancellation of the event, insisting it was a matter for the F1 authorities whether the race should go ahead.

It came after Labour leader Ed Miliband and shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper added their voices to demands for the grand prix to be called off.

Mr Miliband said proceeding would send out the wrong signal a time of protests over human rights abuses in the Gulf kingdom, while Ms Cooper said British drivers should not take part.

BLOG: The Bahrain Grand Prix: Another case of burying heads in the sand?

The Prime Minster said there was "a process of reform under way in Bahrain" and added: "This Government backs that reform and wants to help promote that reform."

Amnesty International said human rights violations are continuing in the Gulf kingdom despite government promises that the country is on the road to reform.

In a recent report, the campaign group said security forces were still using excessive and unnecessary force against anti-government protesters.

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The charity also said it was receiving ongoing reports of the torture and ill-treatment of demonstrators, who have been involved in ongoing clashes with police.

The 2011 race was cancelled as international criticism grew over the bloodshed and The Foreign Office (FCO) has advised British motor racing fans against travelling to this year's grand prix.

Meanwhile armed vehicles have been deployed on the streets of the capital as F1 stars prepare to begin the second qualifying session later today.

Around 20 people staged a demonstration against the grand prix outside the Formula One office in Knightsbridge, central London.

Human rights activist Peter Tatchell attended the protest which was organised by campaign group Justice for Bahrain.

He said: "I would appeal to Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button to withdraw from the Bahrain grand prix. By participating, they'll be giving respectability to the regime. They'll be sending out the message that it's business as usual.

"There can be no normal sporting relations with an abnormal regime that is killing its own people."

The demonstrators held placards which read "Shame on you Bernie" (Ecclestone) and "We are dying, you are racing".

Political activist Ali Al Fayez said: "I was threatened by the thugs in Bahrain back in 2011. They put a gun in front of my face."

He added: "We ask the people that are watching television to enjoy the Formula One. Enjoy it but remember there are people killed in Bahrain."

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