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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Saudi Arabia: Accusations and invitations

http://www.dw.com

As human rights organizations put Saudi Arabia under pressure once again, DW's Tim Sebastian presses Prince Turki Al-Faisal on Raif Badawi, "alternative facts" and torture cases. 


Watch video26:02

Prince Turki Al-Faisal on Conflict Zone

Prince Turki Al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia issued an open invitation to DW's Tim Sebastian to undertake a fact-finding visit to Saudi jails. Speaking on "Conflict Zone", Prince al-Faisal said he was open to Sebastian's suggestion that the UN Committee against Torture should be able visit the jail holding the blogger and dissident Raif Badawi. Badawi is mid-way through a ten year jail term, and has already received fifty lashes of the thousand to which he was sentenced.

Badawi was arrested in 2012 for "insulting Islam through electronic channels." The case produced a large international outcry, with the UN Committee against Torture repeatedly demanding information which Saudi Arabia failed to provide.

Confronted with this particular human rights violation, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, who is the Chairman of the King Faisal Center Saudi Arabia and served as his country's Intelligence Chief until 2001, told interviewer Tim Sebastian: "You must come and see for yourself before you take these things as being facts." When Sebastian responded it would be better "to let the experts go and see," Al-Faisal replied: "Bring whoever you want with you."



Prince Turki Al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia invites Tim Sebastian and the @UN Committee against Torture to visit @BadawiRaif in jail. @amnesty
Crackdown on human rights 
According to  Human Rights Watch (HRW), Saudi Arabia has intensified its crackdown on dissidents and critics of the authorities already in 2017. Two people were sentenced to lengthy jail terms and two more detained without charge in January alone. More than 20 critics of the Kingdom's repressive stance on women's rights were sentenced to jail terms of up to 15 years since 2011. "Saudi Arabia is trying to silence and lock away anyone who doesn't toe the official line or dares to express an independent view on politics, religion, or human rights," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of HRW, said.

The organization also spoke of a "pattern of ongoing repression against peaceful advocates and dissidents, including harassment, intimidation, smear campaigns, travel bans, detention, and prosecution." Saudi Arabia has ratified the Arab Charter on Human Rights which guarantees the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
Confronted with his country's intolerance towards criticism, Prince Al-Faisal rejected the accusation and insisted "you must come and see for yourself."

Tim Sebastian: Well I doubt that you would take me to the prisons where they are being held.
Turki Al-Faisal: Others have been taken to the prisons.
Sebastian: They haven't left, have they? That's the problem

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