As the English Premier League deliberates whether to accept Saudi Arabia’s offer to purchase a majority stake in Newcastle United, it should be beware of the buyer. Today’s cash infusion could well prove tomorrow’s liability. Morally, politically and economically, English football and Britain’s citizens will pay a very high price if this sale is approved.
As a long-time Saudi dissident and target of the monarchy’s ruthless security services, I know whereof I speak. My family and friends have been imprisoned and tortured by a regime that cannot tolerate even the mildest of criticism. In just the past week, I lost a friend, mentor and towering human rights figure, Dr Abdullah Al Hamed, who died in prison after Saudi authorities refused to allow him the medical care necessary to save his life. He took his last breath shackled to a bed. Other citizens who peacefully advocate for civil and human rights routinely disappear, are denied visits by family members or defense counsel, and are held without charge or are tried in kangaroo courts.
More recently, the Saudi police shot to death a tribal activist who refused to let the government bulldoze his home to make way for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s pet project NEOM — which, by the way, is funded largely by Newcastle United’s purchaser, the Public Investment Fund. Entire villages have been expropriated, over the objections of their citizens.
As if this were not enough, the agents of the Crown Prince have surveilled, beat up and imprisoned both UK residents and American nationals who question the “enlightened” rule of Al Saud dynasty. My cousin, Badr al Ibrahim, is a US citizen who today languishes in a Saudi jail because he wrote articles that the government did not like.