West News Wire: Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince acknowledged feeling “ashamed” about his nation’s strict laws, claiming he was helpless to intervene in the case of a teacher who had been given the death penalty for insulting the government on social media.
When questioned about the case of Mohammed al-Ghamdi, a retired teacher who was given the death penalty for tweets to his minuscule audience of 10 accounts, Mohammed bin Salman made the statement.
Sadly, it’s accurate. During a television appearance, a Fox News reporter inquired about the matter, and the Crown Prince responded, “It’s something I don’t like.
When questioned about why he was unable to alter Saudi Arabia’s strict government rules, he replied, “We are doing our best, we have already changed tens of laws in Saudi Arabia, and the list has more than 1,000 items. In the cabinet they have only 150 lawyers, so I’m trying to prioritise the change day by day.”
The Crown Prince added: “But we are not happy with that. We are ashamed of that. But [under] the jury system, you have to follow the laws and I cannot tell a judge [to] do that and ignore the law, because that’s against the rule of law. But do we have bad laws? Yes. We are changing that, yes.”
Saudi Arabia has launched an intensified crackdown on social media critics, handing down lengthy jail sentences for criticism of the Kingdom online.
Salma al-Shehab, a Saudi mother and student at Leeds University, was one of those who received a severe punishment. She was given a 34-year prison sentence for her critical tweets.
The Crown Prince’s comments on Fox News clearly indicated his desire to fundamentally overhaul the judicial system as part of his Vision 2030 plan, according to experts familiar with his leadership style, but they noted that it would take time.
“What he is saying is that the country has a legacy legal system that he is working to reform but that takes a lot of time and he recognises some unjustifiable sentences that he expects will be overturned on appeal,” said Ali Shihabi, a Saudi expert who supports the Crown Prince’s reform efforts.
The Saudi royal’s remarks also appeared to be aimed at mollifying Western leaders, who are slowly welcoming him back into the fold five years after the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist.
Khashoggi, a critic of the Crown Prince, was killed and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. The Crown Prince has been accused of personally ordering the killing, although he vehemently denies this.
Khashoggi’s death led to the Crown Prince being shunned by most Western leaders, but relations are now warming, as he is increasingly seen as a crucial partner in the Middle East.
The Crown Prince is due to visit London in October to meet with Rishi Sunak, the UK Prime Minister.
Sir John Jenkins, the former British ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told The Telegraph that he thought the Crown Prince was making a genuine attempt to reform the judicial system.