German rights chief demands Bahrain prisoners freed
Germany's top human rights official called Wednesday on Bahrain to free hundreds of political prisoners as the spotlight falls on the Gulf kingdom ahead of a Formula One Grand Prix at the weekend.
In an interview with AFP, Markus Loening said there were still "a few hundred protestors in prison" more than a year after demonstrations during the Arab Spring.
"They must be freed," he demanded.
He also appealed to the government in Bahrain to release people "who have been imprisoned due to unfair court verdicts."
And Loening also reiterated calls for jailed Bahraini-Danish Shiite activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja to be freed.
Khawaja has been on hunger strike since February to demand his release from prison, where he is serving a life sentence over charges he conspired to overthrow the ruling Sunni monarchy of Bahrain during last year's protests.
His jailing has sparked concerns from the United States and the European Union.
Sunday's Grand Prix in Bahrain has prompted a host of protests, with the largest opposition grouping, Al-Wefaq, calling for a week of daily demonstrations and sit-ins to last through the end of the race.
On Friday, both the sport's governing body, the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile), and commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone announced the race will take place as scheduled.
The F1 race in Bahrain was cancelled last year in the wake of the Shiite-led uprising and the brutal government crackdown that followed in which 35 people were killed, according to an independent probe.
© 2012 AFP