Bahrain arrests activists ahead of Grand Prix

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
April 18, 2013

Bahrain arrests opposition activists before big race, university snubs the Dalai Lama, and Pakistan’s former president makes a run for it. Today is Thursday, April 18, and this is the World Wrap, brought you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

Protesters move a tree trunk to a road to set up road blocks in the village of Sitra, south of Manama, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

All eyes on Bahrain during Formula One race. Bahrain arrested five protesters ahead of Sunday’s Formula One motor race, which opposition activists see as an opportunity to publicize their pro-democracy uprising:

The race at the Sakhir desert circuit was canceled in 2011 when protests were crushed and at least 35 people were killed. Activists put the death toll far higher. Last year’s race went ahead against a backdrop of burning tires and riot police firing teargas at protesters throwing petrol bombs in Shi’ite Muslim villages. Bahrain’s main opposition bloc has called for peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations to be stepped up before the race, saying the global spotlight shone on the kingdom by the Grand Prix would help showcase its message of reform.

Amnesty International criticized the government for putting up a façade of progress for its global audience. Human Rights Watch said Grand Prix officials haven’t addressed human rights abuses apparently tied to the event, and accused Bahraini authorities of raiding homes and making arbitrary arrests to prevent protests . Clashes between the Shi’ite majority and the Sunni leadership have occurred daily since protests began two years ago, but usually garner little international attention.

Australian university snubs Dalai Lama. Sydney University canceled the Dalai Lama’s visit in a move critics say is intended to appease China:

China’s human rights record in Tibet remains a controversial issue in Australia, a close U.S. ally, and Sydney University’s new Institute for Democracy and Human Rights organized an on-campus talk by the Dalai Lama during his 10-day visit. This was overturned by a decision to move the event off campus after the university warned organizers not to use its logo, allow media coverage or entry to the event by free Tibet activists.

The university receives Chinese funding for its Confucius Institute. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard refused to meet with the Dalai Lama when he visited the country in 2011.

Going, going, gone. Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf sped from a courtroom in a black SUV after judges ordered his arrest in relation to treason allegations. The humiliating scene further dashed his hopes of making a political comeback:

Despite Taliban death threats and a host of legal challenges, Musharraf returned from almost four years of self-imposed exile in London and Dubai last month in the hope of winning a seat in the National Assembly at the May 11 polls. But his arrival has placed him at the mercy of judges whose memories are still raw of a showdown in 2007 when he sacked the chief justice, placed his colleagues under house arrest, and lawyers fought running battles with police.

Musharraf reportedly fled to a farm in the outskirts of Islamabad. The former president is charged with failing to provide sufficient security for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007.

Nota Bene: In a blow to democracy, a restive region in Russia will allow Putin to pick its governor.


Rhino raid - Four rhinoceros heads worth $650,000 were stolen from the National Museum of Ireland. (Bloomberg)

North Korea kerfuffle - London School of Economics students who accompanied a BBC crew on a trip to North Korea said their school put them at risk by publicizing the story. (BBC)

Food crisis - More children in Greece are going hungry. (The New York Times)

Traffic jam – South Korea banned Psy’s new video over a scene in which the star kicks over a traffic cone. (The Wall Street Journal)

Progress in Pakistan - Transgender candidates run for office for the first time. (The Associated Press)

From the File:

  • Italian parliament fails to elect state president
  • North Korea demands end of sanctions if U.S. wants dialogue
  • Taliban in Qatar see no early peace talks with U.S.
  • Iran dismisses Israel threat at Ahmadinejad’s last army parade
  • Sri Lanka tracks tourists to ensure national security



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