British MPs have asked the government to intervene to stop Saudi Arabia executing prominent preacher, Hassan Farhan Al-Maliki. The 51-year-old, who has been detained since 2017, is one of dozens of Saudis facing the threat of execution for peacefully expressing their ideas.
Human Rights Watch reviewed Al-Maliki's charge sheet, which consists of 14 charges, nearly all of which are said to have no resemblance to recognised crimes. The first two charges relate to his peaceful expression of his religious opinions. Other charges include "conducting interviews with western news outlets" and "owning books" that are "not authorised" by the kingdom.
Al-Maliki is being tried in Saudi Arabia's specialised criminal court in a case that has been postponed 12 times. The British rights group, Reprieve, says he was held incommunicado and in solitary confinement for three months.
With Al-Maliki's fate in the balance, 16 British MPs and peers have written to Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss, to make "urgent representations" to Saudi Arabia to ensure the country's public prosecutor drops the charges.
"We are deeply concerned that a Saudi public intellectual faces potential execution for thought crimes," reads the letter shown to the Independent. "We therefore ask that you make urgent representations to your counterpart in Saudi Arabia to ensure the charges against Hassan are dropped, and that a Saudi scholar and historian is not executed for the contents of his library."
Riyadh's threat to impose the death penalty against Al-Maliki was denounced as an "an outrage" by Liberal Democrat MP, Alistair Carmichael. "If Saudi Arabia wants to be taken seriously as a reforming country, then it should, at the least, be stepping back from such cruel punishments for acts of conscience," Carmichael is reported saying.
Carmichael also criticised the attitude of the current Tory government towards human rights. "If the UK government wants to be taken seriously as a voice for human rights around the globe, then ministers must raise Hassan's case at the highest level with the Saudi regime."
The letter reflects a general anti-Saudi mood amongst the British public. A survey carried out by the Department for International Trade (DIT) earlier this year showed just 27 per cent of the public would support a trade deal with Saudi Arabia, compared with 64 per cent for both Australia and New Zealand