WORLD
Saudi Arabia ‘plans to use Christmas as cover for mass executions’

Saudi Arabia is planning a Christmas execution spree while the West is distracted with festivities in a cynical attempt to avoid diplomatic “blowback”, the UK Government has been warned.

In a letter to the Foreign Secretary seen by the Telegraph, British MPs said the Kingdom would use Christmas as “cover for committing atrocities” – as was the case in 2016 when nearly 50 people, including children, were put to death around late December.

“We are gravely concerned that Saudi Arabia may carry out a mass execution over the holiday period, when the world’s eyes are elsewhere and Saudi authorities feel they will face less diplomatic blowback,” stated the letter to James Cleverly.

“The Kingdom has a history of carrying out executions over the festive and New Year period, as it did in 2016 and 2020, when it is harder for the international community to quickly respond. We urge you to make representations ahead of the holidays to communicate that this would be utterly unacceptable, before it’s too late,” it added.

The letter was signed by MPs across the party spectrum, including David Davis, Hilary Benn, Sir Peter Bottomley, Alistair Carmichael and Andy Slaughter.

60 people facing execution

Around 60 people are known to be facing execution in Saudi Arabia according to human rights groups, who say the true figure is likely to be substantially higher. Death row prisoners are often beheaded with swords, hanged or put in front of firing squads.

It came just days after activists accused the Government of a “spineless” U-turn on its strong opposition to the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, after a Foreign Office minister retracted his claim that a prisoner on death row was “abhorrently tortured” by Saudi jailers.

David Rutley had used the phrase in reference to the case of Jordanian citizen Hussein Abo Al Kheir, 57, who is due to be executed shortly on drugs charges following a forced confession. Mr Rutley then asked for the words “abhorrently tortured” to be expunged from Hansard, allegedly after diplomatic pressure from Riyadh.

West accused of softening stance

Britain, along with other Western governments, has also been accused of taking a softer stance on the death penalty in oil-rich Saudi Arabia because it is trying to mitigate high energy prices caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

But the MPs’ letter to Mr Cleverly seen by The Telegraph pointed out that Saudi Arabia had executed at least 20 people over the past two weeks, including 12 foreigners. “It is no coincidence that Saudi Arabia carried out its recent spate of executions while the world was watching the World Cup,” the MPs wrote.

Maya Foa, the director of the legal charity Reprieve, said: “Joe Biden, Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron all met the Crown Prince this year – and all failed to condemn the bloodshed. Haven’t we learned how short-sighted it is to cosy up to dictators, hoping they will change?

“In the case of Saudi Arabia, more executions for childhood crimes, for protest offences and for non-violent drug crimes are the inevitable result.”

The Government says it firmly opposes the death penalty as a matter of principle in all countries and has raised the case of Mr Abo Al Kheir in particular with Saudi authorities.

The Telegraph approached Saudi representatives for comment but did not receive a response.

Source: Telegraph.co.uk

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