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US, UK 'Soft-Pedal Appalling Human Rights Record' in Saudi Arabia

© Flickr / Stephen DownesView from Kingdom Tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
View from Kingdom Tower in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. - Sputnik International
The West ignores the "appalling" Saudi human rights record, placing economic and political interests above human rights, the policy head of a UK-based rights watchdog told Sputnik.

MOSCOW (Sputnik), Yulia Shamporova — Human rights groups have repeatedly criticized Riyadh for the apparent lack of human rights in the country, including public beheadings and floggings, restrictions on freedom of expression and discrimination against women.

In spite of these documented social issues, Saudi Arabia remains one of closest Middle Eastern allies of the United States and receives large-scale arms sales and security assistance.

"Staying silent on human rights should never be the price for Saudi trade or intelligence-sharing, and we’re concerned that countries like the UK and the USA have been soft-pedaling on human rights issues with the authorities in Riyadh," Amnesty International UK’s Head of Policy and Government Affairs Allan Hogarth said.

He added that the watchdog would like to see governments, including those of the United Kingdom and the United States, speak out forcefully on such violations, as in the cases of Ali Nimr and Raif Badawi.

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"Saudi Arabia gets far too easy a ride over its appalling human rights record. We urgently need to see this change," Hogarth said.

In 2013, human rights activist Raif Badawi was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for allegedly insulting Islam on a liberal Saudi website in 2008. Later, the Saudi appeals court increased the penalty to 10 years imprisonment and 1,000 lashes.

Ali Nimr was arrested in 2012 by Saudi authorities, when he was 17, for participation in Arab Spring anti-government protests. During his arrest and detention, he was reportedly subjected to torture and ill treatment by the General Investigation Directorate. In May, Nimr, now 21, was sentenced to death. An appeal to the sentence was denied in September.

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