Saudi king will face protests on his way to Buckingham Palace

By staff writers
29 Oct 2007

The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has received police permission for a demonstration on the Mall as the Saudi head of state King Abdullah rides in ceremony towards Buckingham Palace tomorrow morning. Human rights protests are also predicted.

Peaceful demonstrators, including activist-comedian Mark Thomas, are due to assemble in the Mall at 11.15am to call for the reopening of a Serious Fraud Office investigation into the Saudi regime's arms deals with BAE Systems.

The news follows a string of criticisms of King Abdullah's state visit by a range of public figures including the Liberal Democrats' acting leader Vince Cable, the Labour MP John McDonnell and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.

Campaign Against Arms Trade, which has supporters among Christians, humanists and peace campaigners of all faiths and none, is concerned that the arms trade leads to BAE and the Saudi regime exerting undemocratic influence on the UK Government.

CAAT spokesperson Symon Hill said: "It seems that the only people in the UK who still support Abdullah's visit are BAE Systems and their friends in Government. The British public do not want the UK to be subservient to a brutal dictatorship for the sake of the arms trade. It's time for Gordon Brown to put human rights and the public interest ahead of BAE's profits."

Media coverage today has largely focussed on the UK government's response to claims by King Abdullah, the unelected head of state in Saudi Arabia, that British intelligence ignored warnings it issued in advance of the London bombings in July 2005.

The government has so far made no comment on Western-backed Saudi Arabia's appalling human rights record, which has been condemned by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and others. Charges include summary executions, cruel and degrading treatment, mistreatment of women, suppression and murder of gay people, and persecution of religious and other minorities.

However, the US and the UK see Saudi Arabia as an ally in the Middle East region, a defender of their oil interests, and a key economic and military trading partner worth billions of dollars.

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