Risk of execution – Saudi


Mohammed al-Faraj’s hearing was postponed  so he remains in prison in Saudi Arabia at risk of the death penalty. Mohammed was only 15 years old when he was arrested outside a bowling alley in Saudi Arabia. That was in 2017.

The fifth anniversary of his imprisonment is coming up.  He has endured five years away from his family. Five years away from his friends. And five years at risk of a death sentence.

When Mohammed was arrested, he was beaten, kicked and shackled with his arms above his head for up to four hours at a time. The Saudi Arabian authorities forced him to sign a “confession”.

The so-called “crimes” Mohammed committed included going to his uncle’s funeral when he was just nine years old. 20,136 people in this community signed the petition demanding Mohammed is not executed. Sending a message to Mohammed today will let him know we’re still fighting for him.

Will you let Mohammed know we’re thinking of him and fighting for his freedom?

Link to message

Repost from Reprieve

Formula 1 in Saudi


Can nothing stop the F1 circus?

Despite the enormous scale of death and destruction taking in place in Yemen by Saudi Arabia, the F1 Grand Prix still took place there (Saudi).  The Saudi regime is desperately keen to use sport as a means to whitewash its appalling human rights record.  Not only is it causing misery in Yemen but it has recently executed 81 people in a single day in Saudi itself almost certainly after torture was used to extract confessions.  Executions are usually carried out by beheading. 

There was a time when sport was confined to the back pages of newspapers or at the end of news bulletins.  It was about sport itself with reports of competitions, league tables or medals won.  The use of sport to promote nations has a long history and in recent times we have seen enormous sums spent by regimes to secure medals at the Olympics.  Recently, the notion of ‘sports washing’ has become established with Saudi Arabia a prominent player.  In addition to boxing promotions, golf and Formula 1, it has poured a huge sum into Newcastle United football club

A recent edition of the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, CAAT, newsletter (Issue 262) provides an update on the destruction in Yemen.  In November, the UN estimated that 377,000 will have died.  This would be the total to the end of 2021.  Unfortunately, they say, ‘the escalating death toll and overwhelming evidence of repeated breaches of international humanitarian law have done little to curb the arms dealers: to them it represent a business opportunity’.  Since the bombing of Yemen began in 2015, the value of UK sales to Saudi Arabia amounts to £20 billion.  Further details and background can be found on the Mwatana site.

CAAT reports that the UN failed to renew the mandate in October for the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen following intense lobbying of council members by the Saudi regime.

Saudi Arabia

Human rights infringements continue in the country itself.  Critics of the government or ruling family are routinely jailed.  Prejudice against women and the LGBT community is practised.  Many people are executed in barbaric fashion after wholly unsatisfactory trials.  Reports from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty provide further details.

No impact on F1

None of this seems to have an impact on Formula 1.  It is interesting to note however that, following the invasion of Ukraine by Russian forces, the F1 race due to take place in Sochi this year was quickly cancelled.  It seems truly bizarre that they were able to act with great speed following the Ukraine invasion but prolonged death, destruction and egregious human rights abuses in Yemen and Saudi has not made any impression.  Could it be the considerable publicity the war has attracted and the actions being taken against Russian oligarchs meant that any attempt by F1 to carry on as usual was simply not possible?  Whereas, what is going on in Saudi and Yemen only rarely makes it onto the front pages thus enabling them to carry on with business as usual. 

Saudi is spending billions on its campaign to improve its image and holding various sporting events and some sporting authorities seem immune to what is going on.  It seems as though the lure of money – and lots of it – is too great.  They exist, as one commentator puts it, in a vacuum.  Perhaps we should not be too surprised at F1’s flimsy approach to human rights when its former boss Bernie Ecclestone was interviewed on Times Radio defending President Putin as an ‘honourable man’. 

Sources: HRW; Amnesty; Daily Express; Guardian; al Jazeera; BBC

Saudi executes 81 in one day


News that Saudi Arabia has executed 81 people in one day has shocked the world. Where or how is not known but the usual method is beheading. It surpasses the 63 executed in one day in 1979. So much for the reforms Mohammed bin Salman was supposed to be introducing.

The dead were unlikely to have received a fair trial. They would almost certainly have been tortured into providing confessions. Saudi television said that those executed had ‘followed the footsteps of Satan’.

The executions brings into sharp focus UK relations with the regime. Saudi is our biggest overseas buyer of weapons many of which are being used in the war in Yemen. While our news media is giving wall to wall coverage of the war in Ukraine, the bombing of Yemen hospitals, clinics, weddings and other communal events gets scant coverage. Tens of thousands have been killed, including many children, and cholera is endemic.

The prime minister, Boris Johnson, is due to visit the kingdom in the next few days to try and increase the supply of oil. One wonders if the executions and the outrage they have caused will feature in the discussions. A Reprieve action urging Johnson to cancel his trip is here. Saudi Arabia has invested in Newcastle Football Club.

A report by the European Saudi Organisation for Human Rights report on this can be accessed here. This organisation has been added to our list of contacts to be found at the bottom of the page.

Good news – Saudi


It is not often we get to report good news from Saudi Arabia on the human rights front but we are pleased to report the release of Dawood al Marhoon from prison where he has languished since 2012. He was arrested aged 17 following the Arab Spring protests in 2012. He was condemned to death in 2015 which may have been carried out in public by beheading and crucifixion. Many people from Amnesty and via Reprieve have signed petitions and it has been announced that he has been released.

Saudi death sentence imminent


This is a repost from Reprieve

Hassan al-Maliki could be sentenced to death on Monday 31 January. His crime was  “owning books”, “publishing books” and “publishing tweets”.  Hassan peacefully expressed his opinions on religion and called for a more open society. His only crime is that his views aren’t shared by Saudi Arabia’s ruling elite.

In 2018, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman promised that Saudi Arabia was changing and moving away from its use of the death penalty.  But the fact is, Hassan is facing death for something that never should have been considered a crime. Mohammed Bin Salman is trying to silence those that disagree with the status quo. That’s why this community is speaking out for Reprieve clients in Saudi Arabia.  And now, we’re supercharging the campaign for Hassan.

Hassan was arrested on September 11, 2017. No warrant was shown and he was locked up for a year without charge or trial. His detention and the charges brought against him violate his most basic rights.

On Monday, regardless of the outcome in Hassan’s hearing, we will continue to fight for him and for all those who face injustice around the world.

If you want to take action, please go to the Reprieve web site for the link.

Saudi Arabia: Don’t execute Abdullah al Howaiti


Abdullah was 14 years old when he was abducted by Saudi Arabian authorities in 2017. He was tortured until he ‘confessed’ to crimes he couldn’t have committed. He has several alibis—he was at the seafront 200 km away, playing football with his friends, at the time of the alleged crime.

Abdullah’s conviction was overturned in November 2021. This should be good news, but under Saudi Arabian law there must now be a retrial. That’s why we can’t stop fighting now. 

Saudi Arabian authorities say that they ended the use of the death penalty for child defendants in April 2020. But this is clearly a lie—Abdullah is a child defendant. We’re holding them accountable and making sure the death penalty and his so-called ‘confession’ are off the table. 

Thousands of us in the Reprieve community are helping build a huge swell of public attention and demanding that UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss steps in to protect Abdullah. Will you help too?

If you would like to take part follow this link to the Traidcraft site.

Saudi sportswashing: F1


Saudi Arabia accused of sportswashing with F1 race this weekend

UPDATE: 5 December

Lewis Hamilton is reported to be concerned that his car will show the Kingspan logo, the firm that supplied a small part of the panels which burned on Grenfell Tower. Hamilton has expressed support for the residents of the tower after the major fire. However, he did not appear to say anything about the Saudi regime and their egregious human rights failings which are described below. His teams presence in Saudi is contributing significantly to the regime’s greenwashing programme.


Saudi Arabia is hosting the F1 race this weekend (5 December 2021) and a range of human rights groups have expressed alarm at this latest attempt at sportswashing by the regime. Stars like Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel will be in racing both of whom claim to be supportive of LGBTQ rights. Perhaps they are not aware that same sex relations in Saudi are banned and the penalty if caught is flogging.

The human rights situation in Saudi hardly needs repeating. The introduction to the 2020 Amnesty report for the country says:

Repression of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly has been intensified. Among those harassed, arbitrarily detained, prosecuted and/or jailed were government critics, women’s rights activists, human rights defenders, relatives of activists, journalists, members of the Shi’a minority and online critics of government responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtually all known Saudi Arabian human rights defenders inside the country were detained or imprisoned at the end of the year. Grossly unfair trials continued before the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC) and other courts. Courts resorted extensively to the death penalty and people were executed for a wide range of crimes. Migrant workers were even more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation because of the pandemic, and thousands were arbitrarily detained in dire conditions, leading to an unknown number of deaths.

The regime likes to promote the fact that women can now drive without mentioning that those who campaigned for this freedom were imprisoned. Now released they are not allowed to speak to the press and their freedom of movement is tightly controlled.

There is a slight crumb of comfort in that there is greater media attention being paid to sportswashing and news of cases are beginning to appear in the sports pages. In response to criticisms a spokesman for F1 said:

We take our responsibilities on rights very seriously and set high ethical standards for counterparties and those in our supply chain, which are enshrined in contracts, and we pay close attention to their adherence. For decades Formula One has worked hard be a positive force everywhere it races, including economic, social, and cultural benefits. Sports like Formula One are uniquely positioned to cross borders and cultures to bring countries and communities together to share the passion and excitement of incredible competition and achievement.

‘For decades’ is key here since the situation in Saudi has not improved. The extent of its ‘positive force’ as it puts it is hard to discern and is not explained.

Historically, regimes like USSR and East Germany used sporting prowess to promote their credibility: who could forget stars like Olga Korbut for example? Today, Saudi Arabia is actively seeking to import sporting events to promote the myth that it is a reformed state. Their recent investment in Newcastle United is also part of this campaign. They are reported to have spent £1.5bn on this activity. Human Rights Watch has suggested it might be cheaper to reform itself rather than spend a fortune on sportswashing.

Might things change? The resolute action by the Women’s Tennis Association in relation to the Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai is perhaps an encouraging sign. Peng wrote about the abuse she sustained from a senior Chinese official and has all but disappeared. Only the IOC seems keen of maintaining the myth that she is free to live her life. The WTA on the other hand has received considerable support for its action.

Sources: Newsweek, BBC, Human Rights Watch, Wikipedia, Guardian.

Good news! Ali al Nimr released


We are delighted to report that after a long campaign by Amnesty, Reprieve and other organisations, Ali al Nimr has been released from prison in Saudi Arabia. It can sometimes feel that campaigning for the release of people held for their beliefs or opposition to the government is a lost cause. This shows that it can sometimes work and the full story and background can be seen here in a statement by Reprieve.

Saudi takeover of Newcastle football club


The news today of the Saudi takeover of Newcastle United is condemned by Amnesty

It was announced today (7 October 2021) that the Saudi Public Investment Fund has agreed a £300m takeover of Newcastle United Football Club. This has resurrected the argument about ‘Sportswash’ and countries with poor human rights records using sport to try and create a better image for themselves. Saudi Arabia has a particularly dire human rights record with the routine use of torture, capital punishment often by primitive means and in public, the poor treatment of women and the silencing of opposition to the regime.

The takeover has been welcomed in Newcastle and it was suggested by a reporter in the City that the fans were jubilant as it will mean the end of Mike Ashley’s ownership and the poor record by the club in the league during his time. Newcastle Chronicle has considerable coverage and photos of large numbers of jubilant fans. The newspaper describes the atmosphere as ‘electric’. On Twitter a tweet said it was about ‘returning a sense of pride’.

Newcastle is not the only football club or sport to accept money from dubious regimes so it would be unfair to single them out. Saudi’s human rights record is particularly dubious however. The list is long and includes the likely murder and dismemberment by Saudi agents of Jamal Khashoggi, the repression of dissidents and human rights defenders, several members of the royal family are still held incommunicado and there is no freedom of religion other than Islam.

Yemen is also a stain on the country with nearly 8,000 killed in air raids including 2,000 children. There is a blockade in place adding to the misery in the country.

Newcastle supporters can also claim that our own royal family and senior ministers have frequently visited the country and are on visible and seemingly good terms with Mohammed bin Salman. The UK is also a major supplier of weapons to the regime, despite evidence of the harm done in their use. To condemn the deal is, they might argue, hypocritical. The Saudis also own considerable real estate in London.

While all this is true, there is no escaping the reality of a terrible regime buying a famous football club to enable it to enhance its image in the world. Although the fans seem delighted with the decision, it remains the case that the money is tainted and from a particularly dire regime.

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