The Prince of Wales has been urged to raise concerns about human rights abuses during his six-day tour of the Middle East, which began yesterday.
Amnesty International UK has appealed to Charles to use his influence and “pass on a few well chosen words” as he tours the Gulf, and raise the case of jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who faces a decade behind bars and 1,000 lashes.
The prince’s trip begins in Jordan, which is still grieving after the brutal killing of its pilot, 26-year-old Moaz al Kasasbeh, by the Islamic State (IS) group.
Jordanian fighters carried out fresh attacks on IS militants, who control parts of neighbouring Syria and Iraq, on Thursday soon after the state’s ruler, King Abdullah II, vowed to wage a “harsh” war against the terrorist group.
Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK director, said: “We don’t expect Prince Charles to give up the red carpets and state banquets and become a human rights campaigner, but as a man who knows the Middle East well we hope that he will use this visit to pass on a few well-chosen words to his royal hosts.
“We know that freedom of religion is an issue close to the prince’s heart, and in Saudi Arabia he will surely want to raise the outrageous case of Raif Badawi, the blogger jailed and flogged for discussing politics and religion on his website.
“We still need the UK government to do more on Raif’s case, but Charles’ diplomatic intercession could help secure this man’s freedom.”
Badawi was jailed for ten years and ordered to receive 1,000 lashes after he was convicted of insulting Islam.
Amnesty has also called on Charles to highlight the plight of foreign workers employed to build the infrastructure of the 2022 Qatar World Cup.
Earlier this month Charles travelled to the Saudi capital Riyadh, as did a number of world leaders including David Cameron, to pay his respects following the death of the nation’s King Abdullah.
Abdullah died aged 90 last Thursday after two decades in control of the world’s biggest oil exporter. He has been succeeded by his 79-year-old half-brother Salman.
The decision to fly flags at half-mast on key public buildings in London drew sharp criticism from some prominent politicians, who highlighted claims of Saudi Arabia’s abuses of free speech, women’s rights and the country’s role as a cradle of Islamist extremism. The prince’s tour of the Middle East will also see him travel to Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates over six days.
His visit to Jordan effectively begins today, with a full programme of events that will see him meet with the new king, who will later join Charles at an interfaith event.