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The New Arab Staff

British lawmakers urge government to secure safety of Gulf human rights activists

The imprisoned activists are thought to be at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 June, 2020

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A group of UK lawmakers urged the UK Foreign Office to intervene in the cases of three Gulf activists who are at risk of contracting Covid-19 in prison.
A group of British lawmakers have urged the Foreign Office to secure the safety of three incarcerated Gulf human rights activists over concerns of coronavirus outbreaks in prisons in the region, according to a Friday report from The Guardian.

The MPs, who span across political parties, have sent a letter to the Foreign Office calling for a human rights intervention for Saudi Arabian women's rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul, Emirati activist Ahmed Mansoor and Bahraini activist Abduljalil Al-Singace.

MP Brendan O’Hara, who also chairs the parliamentary group on Democracy and Human Rights in the Gulf, told the Guardian that it is "paramount that human rights are at the centre of UK policy" with Brexit fast approaching.

Al-Hathloul has been held at Saudi Arabia's maximum security Al-Ha'ir prison near Riyadh for over two years. She has yet to be given a proper trial, and has reported being tortured while in detention.

A prominent advocate for Saudi women's right to drive, Al-Hathloul was arrested in 2018 as the kingdom prepared to lift its ban on women driving.

"One of the charges against her is meeting with a British embassy official in Riyadh, so I hope the foreign office realises it has a special responsibility to do everything to campaign for her,” Al-Hathloul's sister Lina told the Guardian

Mansoor is serving a 10-year sentence for defaming the "status and prestige of the UAE and its symbols", as well as  using social media platforms to "publish false and misleading information".

Mansoor's health has deteriorated in detention after leading a number of hunger strikes. Human Rights Watch has also reported coronavirus outbreaks in UAE jails.

Al-Singace was sentenced to life imprisonment for criticising the Bahraini government.

According to the Guardian report, Bahraini activist Maryam Al-Khawaja, whose father is held in the same prison as Al-Singace, said there are confirmed Covid-19 cases in the prison.

Caroline Lucas, one of the British MPs in the group, criticised what she perceived to be a lack of action from the Foreign Office.

“By refusing to speak out about the ongoing abuse of these brave individuals, the government is once again putting its pursuit of preferential trade deals ahead of human rights," Lucas told the Guardian.

"Its vision of a ‘Global Britain’ is looking like one where moral values are tossed aside in the name of political expediency," she added.

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