By Anthony Harwood /Gulf Times London Correspondent
A former prisons minister has compared the Saudi crown prince with Henry II whose knights killed Thomas Becket after he let it be known he wanted the archbishop out of the way.
Tory MP Crispin Blunt said that, like our king, Mohamed bin Salman should also do penance for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.
Back in the 12th Century Henry II had to atone for the death of his troublesome cleric who was killed by four knights after he famously cried: ‘Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?’ Mr Blunt, MP for Reigate, said: “I think Mohamed bin Salman, if he is responsible this way, he needs to make penance for the most appalling mistake, and a dreadful crime.
“At the very least he is ministerially responsible, if not personally culpable.”
Eleven people have gone on trial in Saudi Arabia accused of killing the Washington Post journalist who was murdered by a hit squad during a visit to the country’s consulate in Istanbul.
The Conservative MP is leading a cross-party group of MPs calling for access to women’s rights activists detained in Saudi Arabia, following claims they have been tortured and subject to sexual assault in jail.
The politicians have asked to be allowed to visit the detainees as well as interview their guards following claims of mistreatment.
But the deadline for a reply from the Saudi ambassador in London passed on Wednesday without response.
Among the eight women and three men being held are Loujain al-Hathoul, a One Young World ambassador who once posed for a Vanity Fair shoot with the then Meghan Markle, now Duchess of Sussex.
Also detained is Samar Badawi who was presented with the 2012 International Women of Courage Award at the White by Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton.
The group were arrested early last year for celebrating the imminent decision of the Saudi authorities to allow women to drive as well as calling for an end to the country’s male guardianship system.
Last November a report by Human Rights Watch claimed they had been tortured with electric shocks, tied down to a bed and whipped with a rope, subjected to sexually harassment, threats of rape and assault, threats of the death penalty or life imprisonment for ‘treason’, and denial of access to family members or lawyers.
The Detention Review Panel also includes Lib Dem PM Layla Moran and Dr Paul Williams from Labour.
Mr Blunt said that post-Khashoggi Saudi Arabia needed to mend its ways if it didn’t want to end up being an international pariah.
He said: “Saudi Arabia now has a first class crisis on its hands because of the murder of Khashoggi and what they’ve got to address is whether they want to close down the civil society space. If they do it would a disaster for them because it means no Saudi citizen would ever utter a word of criticism of their government.
“But I hope there is a wider policy assessment that things has gone terribly badly for Saudi Arabia and the policy is going to change. Here is a way of demonstrating it’s changing – by letting us in.” He said that if the Saudi behaviour didn’t change then “nothing should be off the table” – including an end to arms deals and sanctions.
Mr Blunt added that failed decisions at home were also leading to questions about the country’s policies abroad.
He said: “The reasonableness of the policy on Yemen and Qatar comes into question as well because you’ve then got judgements being made about what’s happening domestically in Saudi Arabia, also about the conduct of other bits of foreign policy.”
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