Bahrain detains footballers over protests

Bahraini authorities have detained three players from the national football team who expressed support for anti-regime protests across the kingdom.

Six clubs, two in the top division and four in the second, were also withdrawn from domestic leagues after they refused to play to protest against Manama's brutal crackdown on anti-government protesters.

Sheik Ali bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, the vice president of the Bahrain Football Association, said the clubs would also be fined for their refusal to play, adding that two top division clubs could also face relegation.

The Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights, however, says that the suspended clubs mostly belong to protest-hit villages and that they were suspended from the league for two years and fined USD 20,000.

Bahraini authorities had earlier suspended nearly 200 athletes, coaches and referees for joining the anti-regime campaign.

Meanwhile, anti-government activists have launched a Facebook campaign calling on Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone not to reschedule the Bahrain Grand Prix (GP) until "basic human rights and freedoms are restored" in the kingdom.

The Bahrain GP was scheduled to be the F1 season-opener on March 13 but was canceled in February by Bahrain's crown prince after the beginning of anti-government protests.

The F1 season began, instead, at the Australian GP in Melbourne on March 27 and Formula One's governing body has given Manama until May 1 to decide if a new date can be set this year.

More than 30 protesters have been killed and scores of others injured since the uprising began in Bahrain in mid-February.

Many journalists, bloggers, doctors, lawyers and opposition activists have been arrested as part of a widespread crackdown on anti-regime protests.

Protesters are demanding an end to the rule of the Al Khalifa dynasty.

Protesters say they will continue their street demonstrations until their demands for freedom, constitutional monarchy as well as a proportional voice in the government are met.