The Bahrain government has denied rounding up and arresting members of the political opposition ahead of next week’s F1 race.
Human Rights Watch claims 20 people were arrested including leaders of anti-government protests.
“These raids and detentions suggest that officials are more concerned with getting activists out of circulation for the Formula One race than with addressing the legitimate grievances that have led so many Bahrainis to take to the streets,” said the organization’s Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson.
A government information minister denied claims the 20 had been unlawfully arrested without warrants being produced.
“We discredit any news of such arrests in recent days or even months,” said Bahrain information minister Sameera Rajab. “This doesn’t happen in Bahrain. If there is any action against peace and security, it must be dealt with according to law.”
Human Rights Watch claims to have information from local sources that “activists who live in towns close by or next to the track for the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix and who have led anti-government protests in the past” have been targeted for arrest since the beginning of the month.
Bernie Ecclestone said last week “I haven’t had any negative reports from anybody there.”
“I don’t think they’ll upset the talks by making protests,” he added. “It didn’t help them last year, so if they had any brains they’d just get on with their talks.”
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.