Saudi sports washing


Open letter from Reprieve to Sebastian Vettel

October 2022

Saudi Arabia is using its vast wealth to attract a range of sports and sports competitors to its shores as part of a programme to improve its reputation. They have also poured large sums into Newcastle United football club as part of the same exercise. The money seems to work and sports such as tennis, golf, equestrianism, boxing and formula 1 racing have all eagerly taken part and accepted the Saudi millions. They have invested in US sports such as baseball and basketball. The sports people seem not to be concerned at the lack of women’s rights, the use of torture, suppression of free speech and barbaric executions which go on there. In addition, Saudi Arabia has been involved in the war in Yemen which has resulted in considerable loss of life.

Below, is a letter from Reprieve to the racing driver Sebastien Vettel asking him to speak out –

Dear Sebastian Vettel,

We wanted to tell you, as an F1 driver for Aston Martin, about the Saudi Arabian government’s human rights abuses and the fact that Saudi Arabia has just invested in the company you drive for.

The Reprieve community may not be experts on cars or racing, but we are experts in the case of Abdullah al-Howaiti – a child defendant at risk of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia.  

Abdullah was arrested when he was just 14 years old and tortured “confessing” to crimes he did not commit. 

Just last year, the Saudi Arabian regime that has been allowed to invest in Aston Martin, executed child defendant Mustafa al-Darwish, who was 17 years old at the time of his so-called crime. Having a photo on his phone was amongst his alleged offences. If you speak up, you can stop Abdullah facing the same fate.  

The Saudi Arabian Government is doing what is known as sportswashing. They’re appointing tourism ambassadors such as Lionel Messi, creating the LIV golf tournament, and buying sports clubs like Newcastle FC. This is a regime trying very hard to distract people from its human rights abuses. 

We are asking you to follow Lewis Hamilton in speaking out against human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. You can use your platform as one of F1’s most famous drivers and representing a team part-owned by Saudi Arabia’s government to save lives.

We read that you said, “there are certain values we must stand up for because they outweigh financial interests” and “you also have responsibility and you should make sure you go ahead with the right values and symbols.” Today we’re asking you to exercise your responsibility, value Abdullah’s life, and speak out for him before you retire at the end of the year. Your voice could make the difference. 

Will you speak up for him? 

Thank you,   

The Reprieve Community   


You can sign this petition by following this link. Please help us and the Reprieve community in trying to stop Saudi using its wealth to smooth over its appalling human rights record. Thank you.

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.

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