Man’s sister in captivity in Saudi Arabia writes to Hamilton

PARIS – The sister of a man sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia is asking seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton to help save her brother’s life.

Zeinab Abu Al-Kheir told the Associated Press in a phone interview that Hamilton’s statement two weeks ago in Qatar that F1 is “binding duty” to raise awareness of human rights made her think he could save her brother, Hussein Abu Al-Kheir. The focus of auto racing revolved around Saudi Arabia on Sunday as the kingdom hosted an F1 competition for the first time.

“Dear Lewis, I am writing to you in the hope of being able to save my brother’s life,” Abu Al-Kheir wrote last week to Hamilton from her home in Canada, in a letter shared privately with the AP. “Just saying his name while you’re in Saudi Arabia might be enough.”


Asked about the letter during Thursday’s pre-race press conference, Hamilton said, “I’m not really sure what letter you’re referring to, so I can’t really comment on that letter.”

Saudi Arabia, which for many years had one of the world’s most executioners, has significantly reduced the number of people executed by 2020, following changes to a moratorium on executions for related nonviolent crimes. to drugs, according to government tally and independent observers.

With her brother jailed nearly 6,000 miles (about 9,700 km) away in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia, Abu Al-Kheir said she hopes Hamilton can become a connection with powerful Saudi Arabia. .

“Someone as famous as Hamilton can do something, he can talk to the prince (Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman), the interior minister or even to King Salman,” Abu Al-Kheir said from home. hers near Ottowa. “People like Hamilton attract the attention of governments everywhere.”


In a letter to Hamilton, which was shared exclusively with AP by the NGO Reprieve, Abu Al-Kheir said her brother, a 56-year-old Jordanian, was executed five years ago for crimes related to drug.

She said the husband and father of eight children were unwittingly used as a drug mule and, when he was caught, horribly tortured. On his way from Jordan to Saudi Arabia to work as a driver, one day customs officers searched his car.

“For 12 days, my brother told the officers the truth: that he knew nothing about the pills,” Abu Al-Kheir wrote in her letter. human body. The torture was so severe that it took a year for us to see the marks. In the end, he made a false statement about drug trafficking.”

Amnesty International ranked Saudi Arabia third in the world for the highest number of executions in 2019.

According to Reprieve, 392 people have been executed for non-violence during the six years that King Salman and the crown prince were in power.


There has been a significant drop in 2020 from the all-time high of 184 executions the year before. This decline is partly due to a ban on the execution of the death penalty for drug-related crimes.

But Abu Al-Kheir told the AP she was worried her brother might still face execution.

“They say they have stopped beheading deaths since almost a year now. But nobody knew what they were doing (inside the prison),” she said.

Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been accused of “washing up” their human rights records by using popular sporting events to project a favorable image.

Qatar will host the World Cup next year. Two years ago, boxer Anthony Joshua left Saudi Arabia about $70 million richer after winning in Riyadh. Saudi Arabia came under surveillance in October after buy English Premier League club Newcastle.


Human Rights Watch launched a campaign late last year to counter what it said was an attempt by the Saudi government to spend billions of dollars organizing major events like ” a deliberate strategy to deflect the country’s image as a pervasive human rights violator. “

Heba Morayef, Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Regional Director, said flashy events must not deviate from human rights.

“The Saudi authorities have invested heavily in PR stunts to re-brand their image,” Morayef said on Thursday in a press release. “The Saudi authorities need to realize that the best PR comes from respecting human rights.”

The AP sent an email to government agencies seeking clarification on the death penalty and human rights.


Meanwhile, Abu Al-Kheir also wrote to King Salman.

“I tried everything to help my brother, to save his life,” she told the AP. “I always gave him hope, to see his children and his wife.”

Hamilton has been a big voice for human rights.

In July, he and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel spoke out against the Hungarian government’s planned LGBT law referendum.

Hamilton has a rainbow on his Mercedes helmet in Qatar for LGBTQ+ community. Two years ago, singer Nicki Minaj pulled out of a concert in Saudi Arabia in support of women’s and gay rights.


In Saudi Arabia, same-sex relationships are criminalized and can lead to the death penalty. Discrimination and ill-treatment are common, but individuals are rarely prosecuted.

Hamilton addressed the issue in his press conference on Thursday

“If people want to take the time to go and read what the law is for the LGBTQ+ community, that’s pretty horrible,” Hamilton said.

“Do I feel comfortable (racing) here? I would say I do. But I didn’t have to choose here, sport made a choice here,” Hamilton said. “There’s a lot of change that needs to happen and I think our sport needs to do more.”


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Huynh Nguyen

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