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Saudi Arabia ‘plans to use Christmas as cover for mass executions’

Saudi Arabia is planning a Christmas execution while the West is distracted by celebrations in a cynical bid to avoid a diplomatic “backlash”, the UK government has been warned.

In a letter to the Foreign Secretary seen by the Telegraph, British MPs said the Kingdom would use Christmas as “cover to commit atrocities” – as was the case in 2016 when nearly 50 people, including children, were killed in late December.

“We are seriously concerned that Saudi Arabia could carry out a mass execution during the festive period, when the eyes of the world are elsewhere and when the Saudi authorities feel they will face fewer diplomatic blows,” the letter to James Cleverley said.

“The Kingdom has a history of carrying out executions during festive and New Year periods, such as in 2016 and 2020, when it is more difficult for the international community to react quickly.” We urge you to make statements ahead of the holidays to communicate that this would be highly unacceptable, before it is too late,” it added.

The letter was signed by MPs from across the party spectrum, including David Davies, Hilary Benn, Sir Peter Bottomley, Alistair Carmichael and Andy Slaughter.

60 people face execution

About 60 people are known to face execution in Saudi Arabia, according to rights groups, who say the true figure is likely to be much higher. Prisoners sentenced to death are often decapitated with swords, hanged or put in front of firing squads.

It comes just days after campaigners accused the government of a “spineless” U-turn against its strong opposition to the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, after the foreign minister retracted his claim that a death row inmate had been “heinously tortured” by Saudi Arabia . jailers.

David Routley used this phrase in connection with the case of Jordanian citizen Hussein Abo Al Kheira, 57, who is soon to be executed for drugs after a forced confession. Mr Rutley then asked for the words “heinously tortured” to be deleted from Hansard, allegedly following diplomatic pressure from Riyadh.

West accused of softening stance

Britain, along with other Western governments, has also been accused of taking a softer stance on the death penalty in oil-rich Saudi Arabia as it tries to ease high energy prices caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

However, a letter from MPs to Mr Cleverley seen by the Telegraph points out that Saudi Arabia has executed at least 20 people, including 12 foreigners, in the past two weeks. “It is no coincidence that Saudi Arabia carried out the recent spate of executions while the world was watching the World Cup,” the MPs wrote.

Maya Foa, director of the legal charity Reprieve, said: “Joe Biden, Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron met the crown prince this year – and all failed to condemn the bloodshed. Have we not learned how short-sighted it is to acquiesce to dictators, hoping they will change?

“In the case of Saudi Arabia, the inevitable result is more executions for childhood crimes, for protest and for non-violent drug crimes.”

The government says it firmly opposes the death penalty as a matter of principle in all countries and has brought Mr Abo Al Kheira’s case specifically to the Saudi authorities.

The Telegraph reached out to Saudi officials for comment but did not receive a response.

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