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Thu May 13, 2021, 10:39 AM

'Weak' US let Saudis jail more dissidents, says rights group

Related: Saudi Prisoners of Conscience Report 2020/21 (Grant Liberty)

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Source: The Guardian

‘Weak’ US let Saudis jail more dissidents, says rights group

Lack of US sanctions on crown prince led to harsher sentences for critics of regime, Grant Liberty reports

Ruth Michaelson
Thu 13 May 2021 08.00 BST

The Biden administration’s failure to impose sanctions on Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has led to a increase in severe sentences for political prisoners in the kingdom, the Guardian can reveal.

The UK-based human rights organisation Grant Liberty found that twice as many harsh sentences had been meted out to Saudi prisoners of conscience in April than in the first three months of this year combined. It followed the Biden administration’s decision on 26 February to publish an intelligence report that showed the crown prince, “approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey, to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi”.

In the weeks since the US decision, Grant Liberty said it had seen a renewed crackdown on political prisoners and claimed there was a direct link to the American failure to impose sanctions on the crown prince or his close circle of advisers. It said the decision had given the Saudi authorities carte blanche to mete out severe punishments to critics.

“News from the Saudi legal system can be notoriously slow, but at least eight individuals suffered stiff sentences in April alone – twice as many as the first three months of the year combined,” it said. There were no prisoners of conscience sentenced in either April 2019 or April last year.

In late February, the Biden administration announced the “Khashoggi ban”, by denying visas to 76 Saudis “believed to have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas, including but not limited to the Khashoggi killing”. But critics said these measures, which stopped short of imposing sanctions on the crown prince or those close to him, had done little to discourage the Saudi authorities from targeting critics.

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Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/may/13/weak-us-let-saudis-jail-more-dissidents-says-rights-group

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