The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in London has contradicted its own ambassador and denied that the Kingdom is considering clemency for jailed female activists ahead of the G20 summit later this month.
The denial came a day after Ambassador Khalid Bin Bandar Bin Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud apparently told the Guardian that the women, including Loujain Al-Hathloul, could be released during the two day summit due to begin on 21 November.
"The G20, does it offer an opportunity for clemency? Possibly. That is a judgment for someone other than me," said Al-Saud. "People ask: is it worth the damage it is causing you, whatever they did? That is a fair argument to make and it is a discussion we have back at home within our political system and within our ministry."
Commenting on the internal debate within the Kingdom over the issue the ambassador added: "There is a variety of views. Some people say it doesn't matter what other people think of us, what is important is to do what is right for our country, and if people knowingly break our laws they should be punished according to those laws. Other people say it isn't worth it, let them out, let them live their lives and ignore them."
Al-Hathloul is one of a number of high-profile women jailed by the Saudi authorities. They have also arrested a number of other human rights activists, including Samar Badawi, Nassima Al-Sada, Nouf Abdel Aziz and Maya Al-Zahrani, allegedly for threatening the Kingdom's security.
With the W20 Women's Summit also set to take place in Riyadh concurrently with the G20, Human Rights Watch (HRW) blasted the Kingdom for what it described as blatant hypocrisy. While supposedly promoting equality and women's empowerment, argued HRW, it has jailed women's rights activists and, it is alleged, abused them.