Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, has defended his country's death penalty sentence in an interview with Channel 4 News. Al-Jubeir urged Britons to "respect" Saudi Arabia's justice system to prevent the further straining of ties between the two nations over controversial Saudi laws.
Channel 4 News' Jonathan Rugman told Al-Jubeir that Saudi Arabia holds a "terrible image problem". "You don't have to execute as many people as you do, do you?" asked Rugman. Al-Jubeir responded: "We have a fundamental difference, in your country, you do not execute people, we respect it. In our country, the death penalty is part of our laws and you have to respect this as it is the law."
Al-Jubeir further said that a lot of work needs to be done to wipe out the negative perception of Saudi Arabia amongst the British public. "With regards to the perception of Saudi Arabia among the British public, this is a problem that we need to work on. We have not been good at explaining ourselves," said Al-Jubeir, reported MSN News.
"We have not done a good job at reaching out to the British media or the British public or to the British institutions, academic institutions, think tanks and so forth. We maybe not have been as communicative as we should be."
Saudi Arabia carried out nearly 150 executions in 2015 alone, most being for non-violent crimes. So far in 2016, some 50 people were reportedly executed in one day alone.
"Alarmingly, the Saudi Government is continuing to target those who have called for domestic reform in the kingdom ... there are now real concerns that those protesters sentenced to death as children could be next in line to face the swordsman's blade," said Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at international human rights organisation Reprieve at the time of prominent Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr's execution.
"Saudi Arabia's allies - including the US and UK - must not turn a blind eye to such atrocities and must urgently appeal to the Kingdom to change course."