MANAMA, April 21 (Reuters) A Bahraini protester was found dead after clashes with riot police on the eve of the Gulf kingdom's Formula One Grand Prix that anti-government activists have vowed to mark with "days of rage".
The opposition party Wefaq said the body of a man named as
Salah Abbas Habib, 37, was found on the roof of a building in a rural village. It said the protester was part of a group who were beaten by police.
Wefaq, the leading party among Bahrain's restive Shi'ite
Muslim majority population published a photograph taken of Habib's body splayed on a corrugated iron rooftop.
Bahrain's Interior Ministry said via Twitter that it was launching an investigation.
Dozens of armoured vehicles and security forces in riot gear were deployed along the road to the Bahrain International Circuit and around the capital Manama. Activists said barbed wire has been installed near some parts of the main highway.
The protesters, mostly from the majority Shi'ite Muslim community, blame the Sunni ruling elite for shutting them out of opportunities, jobs and housing. They have made it clear they will use the international attention the motor race has focused on Bahrain to air their grievances. "The government are using the Formula One race to serve their PR campaign," said rights activist Nabeel Rajab. "It's not turning out the way they wanted."
There were no protesters near the Grand Prix circuit, which was blanketed with layers of security. Saturday's practice runs began without incident.
Organisers have rejected calls from human rights groups to cancel Sunday's race because of what activists see as continuing political repression.
"They need to fix the country first, then they can start looking at Formula One and other events," said Umm Hussein, one of 10,000 demonstrators who gathered near Manama on Friday.
Police used teargas against masked youths throwing petrol bombs, who were trying to reach a traffic roundabout that was a rallying point during an uprising last year inspired by the Arab Spring revolts that toppled the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt.
Wefaq named the dead protester as Salah Abbas Habib and said his body was found in the village of Shakhoura where protesters had clashed with police overnight.
Opposition leaders said they are not planning any organized mass rallies on Saturday, but did not rule out gatherings later in the day that might grow in size.
Last year's race was delayed, and then cancelled, after a brutal crackdown against pro-democracy protesters in Bahrain, a financial hub and modest oil producer that is also host to the Fifth Fleet, the U.S. Navy's main outpost in the region.