Cameron facing fury

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Manju Shukla
Date  26/10/2015

British Prime Minister David Cameron has become the target of criticisms at home for overlooking poor Saudi rights record to guarantee better ties. 

Cameron has specifically come under fire for making a costly trip to Riyadh earlier this year to pay condolences following death of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz.

This follows the publication by the Cabinet Office of all the prime minister’s overseas trips that included the Riyadh trip that was carried out at a total cost of £101,792.  

Publication of the figures comes at an awkward time for the British government, wrote the Guardian on Sunday.

“The UK’s relationship with the kingdom, where capital and corporal punishment are common, is under close scrutiny after the Ministry of Justice pulled out of a £6m contract to help run Saudi prisons after pressure from human rights groups,” it wrote.

They are concerned about the imminent execution of two men, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr and Dawoud al-Marhoon, who were juveniles when they were arrested and tortured following protests in 2012, the Guardian added. 

“The government is clearly going to great lengths to preserve its close relationship with Saudi Arabia,” said Maya Foa, head of the death penalty team at Reprieve. “But with a terrible human rights record that includes the planned execution of juveniles Ali al-Nimr and Dawoud al-Marhoon, it is crucial that the Saudis are strongly pressured to change course by its closest allies – the UK included.

Nimr’s uncle - Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr – has also been sentenced to death. He was attacked and arrested in the Qatif region, east of Saudi Arabia, in July 2012, and has been charged with undermining the kingdom’s security, making anti-government speeches, and defending political prisoners. Nimr has denied the accusations.

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, whose investigation unit unearthed the overseas travel figures, said they showed the UK was prepared to ignore the human rights records of countries that could help it meet its energy needs.

“We prostrate ourselves before the Saudis because they have oil, and we prostrate ourselves before the Chinese because they’ll pay for a new nuclear plant,” Sauven has been quoted by the Guardian as saying.

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