Charles raises case of blogger


Published: Tuesday 10th February 2015 by The News Editor

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The Prince of Wales has raised the plight of jailed blogger Raif Badawi with Saudi Arabia’s new King Salman.

Charles had faced calls from Amnesty International UK to use his influence with the royal Saudi family and intervene on behalf of Mr Badawi during his royal visit.

Mr Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and has received 50 of 1,000 lashes for offences related to setting up a website for Saudi liberals – an online forum for public debate – and was also accused of insulting Islam.

After Charles sat down to a lavish lunch with the Arab monarch and hundreds of guests at a palace in Riyadh today, a source said: “It is understood the issue was raised by the prince during his meeting with King Salman.

“The reaction from the King was not unfriendly.”

The prince and the king talked privately via an interpreter before the lunch and then sat together for the 40-minute meal.

Guests dined on a range of dishes from lasagna and seafood paella to longface emperor fish, traditional lamb dishes and qursan, a popular Saudi dish of meat and vegetables.

Charles’s visit has been described as potentially having a “significant impact” on UK-Saudi relations.

Sir William Patey, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said in an interview with the BBC that Charles has a way of raising human rights issues that does not make the Saudis “bristle”.

Charles also knows Arabia’s royal family well and was among the world figures who travelled to the country to pay their repects last month following the death of King Abdullah, aged 90.

When the heir to the throne met the late monarch’s son Prince Miteb for talks, he told Charles: “The whole family were very grateful. It meant a lot when you came on the first day (after the funeral), it meant a great deal to us.”

Simon Collis, Britain’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said before the meeting he could not say “whether or not” Charles would raise the plight of Mr Badawi.

Speaking generally about the benefits of members of the British monarchy visiting Saudi’s ruling dynasty, he said: “Royal to royal links have a particular value… these kinds of visits are capable of having significant impact.

“Any conversation that does happen is not just going to be an exchange of platitudes, because they are past that.”

The oil-rich state of Saudi Arabia is a conservative country which has been accused of abusing the human rights of its citizens.

Amnesty International UK has claimed the country has one of the highest rates of execution in the world, the torture and ill treatment of prisoners is common and despite some moves to give women greater freedoms discrimination is rife.

Some critics of the Gulf state also claim it has funded terrorist extremists in the region, like Islamic State.

Charles, who is on a six-day tour of the Middle East, raised concerns about the radicalisation of British Muslims in a BBC interview, saying he thought people who were “born here, go to school here, would abide by those values and outlooks”.

His visit to the Gulf state was criticised by Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the London based Islamic Human Rights Commission, who said: “It seems highly hypocritical of Prince Charles to be giving such a gesture of support to the Saudi regime at a time when he claims to be worried about the dangers of so called radicalisation and British values.

“The prince should know that no country has been more pivotal to the rise of extremism than Saudi Arabia and rubbing shoulders with its leaders is only going to give them more encouragement to continue business as normal.”

Amnesty International welcomed the reports that Charles raised the case Mr Badawi with King Salman.

UK Director Kate Allen said: “This is of course very encouraging and very welcome news.

“We always said we weren’t expecting Prince Charles to give up the red carpets and state banquets and become a human rights campaigner, but we also hoped he’d use his unique position to pass on a few well-chosen words to his royal hosts about human rights in Saudi Arabia.

“From the various briefings from the Palace this week, we’re cautiously hopeful that Prince Charles would raise Mr Badawi’s outrageous case.

“We still need the UK Government to do more on Raif’s case – including specifically calling for him to be released – but Charles’ diplomatic intercession could help secure this man’s freedom.”

Published: Tuesday 10th February 2015 by The News Editor

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