UK Government could have saved life of Jordanian executed in Saudi Arabia – MP
A stronger intervention by the UK Government could have saved the life of a Jordanian man executed in Saudi Arabia, a Conservative former Cabinet minister has said.
Hussein Abo al-Kheir was arrested for alleged drug smuggling in 2014, and he was sentenced to death in 2015 following what Amnesty International UK described as a “grossly unfair trial” in which he was convicted of a drug-related offence.
Asking an urgent question on the case in the Commons, David Davis accused ministers of making “only low-level attempts” to talk to Saudi Arabia over the weekend, despite his representations.
I firmly believe a stronger intervention over the weekend could have saved Hussein’s life and maybe more to come
Haltemprice and Howden MP Mr Davis said: “Hussein Abo al-Kheir had been on death row since 2015. He had been tortured into a false confession and always maintained his innocence.
“When I was told this weekend that his execution was imminent, I urgently wrote to the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, the junior minister Lord Ahmad, the British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi ambassador to the UK, calling for intervention to prevent Hussein’s execution.
“I received no formal reply, although I understand a letter has arrived in my office since I have been in the chamber. Hussein was then subsequently executed.
“And the response given on Tuesday to questions from the Father of the House (Sir Peter Bottomley) appears to suggest, despite my representations, only low-level attempts were made to talk to the Saudis over the weekend.”
The UK Government has consistently raised the death penalty, including the case of Jordanian national Mr Hussein Abo al-Kheir with the Saudi authorities
Mr Davis told the lower chamber that in 2015, former foreign secretary Philip Hammond intervened himself to prevent the execution of a Saudi youth activist successfully, and “prevented many more by so doing”.
He added: “I firmly believe a stronger intervention over the weekend could have saved Hussein’s life and maybe more to come.”
Foreign Office minister Leo Docherty insisted “a range of interventions were made … at the most senior level” by Foreign Office minister Lord Ahmad, adding: “I think we can be confident that there was a great deal of energy expended in that effort.”
He also told MPs: “The UK Government has consistently raised the death penalty, including the case of Jordanian national Mr Hussein Abo al-Kheir with the Saudi authorities.
“The minister for the Middle East and North Africa and for human rights, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, has actively raised concerns about the death penalty and the specific case of Mr al-Kheir with the Saudi authorities on multiple occasions.”
Has the UK become less robust on the question of human rights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since 2015?
Mr Docherty added: “On learning about the imminency of the execution which took place on Saturday March 11, Lord Ahmad again spoke to the president of the Saudi human rights commission, the Saudi vice foreign minister and the Saudi ambassador.
“Saudi Arabia is committed to an ambitious programme of economic and social reform … which has already delivered significant change, however, the human rights situation is likely to remain a key issue in our engagement for the foreseeable future.”
Later on, shadow foreign office minister Catherine West echoed Mr Davis’s comments, asking: “Has the UK become less robust on the question of human rights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since 2015?”
She also asked: “In the run up to Ramadan, what extra measures is the Government taking to open dialogue with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia so that last year’s 100 people executions can be avoided?”
Mr Docherty replied: “We are certainly no less robust than before in our absolute determination to oppose the death penalty around the world.”
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