UK government minister defends Saudi Arabia links after mass beheadings
David Guake, the Treasury Financial Secretary, comments come as Saudi Arabia execut the government critic Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr
David Guake, the Treasury Financial Secretary, said capital punishment was “wrong” and the ties between London and Riyadh meant “we can tell them what we think”.
His comments come after Saudi Arabia executed the government criticSheikh Nimr al-Nimr, alongside 46 others including dozens of members of al-Qaeda.
Photo: REX FEATURES
Mr Gauke told Sky News’ Murnaghan programme: “Clearly it is a very worrying development and we oppose capital punishment in this way, we think that that is wrong.”
But he added: “When it comes to protecting British people, the Prime Minister has made it clear that intelligence from Saudi Arabia has helped save lives and protect people in the UK.
“We have a relationship with Saudi Arabia where we are able to speak candidly to them, where these issues are raised on a regular basis by the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister and our representatives in Riyadh.
“We are able to have that relationship where we can tell them what we think and clearly it is a worrying development, what we have heard from Saudi Arabia in the last few days.”
Last year the government was criticised for their decision to fly flags at half-mast along Whitehall to honour the death of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
The lowering of the mast came just weeks after the Saudi regime faced fierce criticism for carrying out the public beheading of a woman and condemning a blogger to 1,000 lashes.
A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “The UK opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and in every country.
“The death penalty undermines human dignity and there is no evidence that it works as a deterrent.
“We seek to build strong and mature relationships so that we can be candid with each other about those areas on which we do not agree, including on human rights.”
Saudi Arabia has long been criticised for its harsh social codes and punishments, imposed under its puritanical version of Sharia law.
Raif Badawi, a blogger, received 50 lashes in January of a sentence of 1,000 lashes and ten years’ jail for criticising the religious establishment. He has received no more since his case was raised by international human rights groups, and even the Prince of Wales at a meeting with the new King Salman in February. In October 2015 it also emerged that Karl Andree, a 74-year-old Briton, would not receive the flogging to which he had apparently been sentenced for being in possession of home-brew alcohol.
Ali Mohammed al-Nimr was arrested in February 2012 when he was just 17 and accused of organising protests. He was sentenced to death by beheading and crucifixion, along with his uncle, a leading Shia cleric. Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, said last month he did not expect the sentence to be carried out. However, murderers, drug dealers and others convicted on purely criminal charges are often beheaded in public.
While women did in 2015 get to register to vote and can stand for local elections, they are still required to have permission from a “guardian” such as a father, husband or brother to travel freely. Wearing modest clothes and a headscarf in public is compulsory. They are also banned from driving.