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Bahrain GP to be held amid protests

Tuesday - 4/16/2013, 9:45am  ET

Bahraini anti-government protesters wait for a rally to begin in Daih, Bahrain, Monday, April 15, 2013. Bahrain's government has backed proposals to impose penalties of up five years in prison for insulting the Gulf state's king or its national symbols, the media said Monday. The poster shows images of protesters killed during past unrest and a cartoon depicting Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, left, and Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, with Arabic that reads, "will you race on the blood of our martyrs?" (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali)

AP Sports Writer

SAKHIR, Bahrain (AP) -- Formula One returns this week to Bahrain, casting the spotlight on a series that has defied criticism to race on while a bloody political crisis has engulfed one of the West's most important allies in the region.

The Bahrain Grand Prix has drawn less attention than a year ago when F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone at the last minute decided to go ahead with the race despite calls by some rights groups for a boycott.

But criticism has intensified in the past week, after explosions sparked security concerns and a Human Rights Watch report alleged that authorities rounded up activists living around the track in a bid to "silence" dissent ahead of the race on Sunday.

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