UK

Prince Charles raises blogger case with new Saudi king

Prince Charles with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia Image copyright EPA
Image caption Prince Charles spoke in private with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud before joining a lunch

The Prince of Wales has raised the issue of jailed blogger Raif Badawi during his first meeting with Saudi Arabia's new king.

Prince Charles had been urged by human rights campaigners to discuss the case during his visit.

Saudi blogger Mr Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for "insulting Islam".

The detail of what was said during the private talk between the prince and King Salman has not been revealed.

Sir William Patey, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, earlier told the BBC that Prince Charles had a way of raising human rights issues that did not make the Saudis "bristle".

The prince also met Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muqrin, along with senior government figures.

He has also visited Jordan and Kuwait so far during his six-day Middle East tour.

Prince Charles was among a number of world leaders who travelled to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, last month to pay his respects following the death of the nation's King Abdullah, aged 90.

King Abdullah was succeeded by his 79-year-old half-brother, Salman.

Amnesty International had urged Prince Charles to raise the case of Mr Badawi during his latest visit, calling on him to "pass on a few well chosen words" to the new Saudi king.

Image copyright Family handout
Image caption Raif Badawi was sentenced to receive 1,000 lashes and has received 50 lashes so far

Mr Badawi had been sentenced to receive 1,000 lashes over 20 weeks - 50 lashes a week - and was given the first round on 9 January.

However, his subsequent floggings have been postponed.


Analysis

BBC royal correspondent Nicholas Witchell

The atmosphere over a lavish lunch at King Salman's palace in Riyadh was friendly, according to British officials.

It was during this lunch and the private discussions Prince Charles had with the king that Charles raised the question of jailed blogger Raif Badawi.

Charles enjoys a high level of respect among the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia.

He's known them for a long time and they unquestionably feel more comfortable dealing with a fellow royal than what to them would be a "mere" elected politician.

That, and Charles' long-standing engagement with Islam, means that they will take an intervention on a sensitive issue from him without feeling that they're being lectured.

Of course it's one thing to raise the issue but it's quite another to persuade the Saudis to take any notice.


No official reason has been given, but human rights groups say Mr Badawi was reported to be physically unfit to face the penalty after receiving the first flogging.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK director, said Prince Charles' "diplomatic intercession" could help secure his freedom.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Prince of Wales arrived in Saudi Arabia on the fourth day of his six-day tour of the Middle East
Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Prince Charles met Saudi Arabia's deputy prime minister Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz al-Saud

During the six-day tour, Prince Charles has already held talks with Jordan's King Abdullah and met Christian refugees from Iraq at the British ambassador's residence in Amman, the Jordanian capital.

He also visited a refugee camp near the Jordanian border with war-torn Syria.

He also held talks with the Emir of Kuwait before taking part in a sunset ceremony on the warship HMS Dauntless, which is on a routine deployment in Kuwait.

The Prince of Wales is also due to visit Qatar and the United Arab Emirates before returning home.

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