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Tuesday, 19 November, 2002, 11:25 GMT
Saudi Arabia: State of denial
Saudi Arabia: State of denial. Thank you for sending us your comments. They will be published here and updated throughout the week.
I watched the show last night. I thought the reporting was inquisitive, balanced and well-prepared. As such, one can only draw a logical and correct conclusion: the (ruling) Saudi's are in a complete state of denial, and worse yet they are perilously close to criminal. Well done on the report!
In the name of humanity I kindly ask the BBC correspondents to do a similar report on the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and the hundreds of innocent Arabs and Muslims detained in America after 9/11.
I am sure this is part of a smear campaign to embarrass Saudi Arabia and force it to co-operate ahead of a possible war against Iraq. The British mass media is very clever in staging such accusations. The drinking club the writer spoke about was a big business involving a mafia style organizations competing against each other in prohibitive market. Why Saudi Arabia now and what is this double standard when we see torturous Israelis in our TV screen with no word of condemnation.
The West has turned a blind eye on the main sponsor of Islamic terror just because of its oil. What a shame.
James, Oxford, England
I think the UN should work to create an International law that forbids trials of foreigners. Even if a foreign national commits a crime, he / she should be tried according to the agreed upon international laws, not the local laws. We have to work to stop torture.
I never heard BBC report torture episodes in Israel and other Western countries - maybe they respect human life and dignity - like they do in Palestine and Afghanistan
It is now almost a year to the day since I was released by the Saudi secret police. I, too, was arrested, accused of involvement in the bombings and held for 9 months in the Mabaheth detention centre in Dammam. I was both fortunate and unfortunate enough to witness the bombing that maimed and blinded David Brown. As one of the first on the scene I administered first aid and help to save David's life. Two months after the bombing I was arrested and taken to Dammam for interrogation. Although I was never physically tortured I was held in solitary confinement for 2 months while my interrogation was going on and was subjected to severe sleep deprivation, never being allowed to sleep for more than an hour at a time. I was accused of various things, including running a alcohol smuggling operation, spying for the British government and being a hired killer. During the interrogation I was also shown surveillance photos of a member of the British diplomatic corps, who was meant to have been my contact. After the initial two months of interrogation I was made to sign a confession admitting to possession of alcohol, I was constantly pressured into signing a confession admitting to playing a part in the bombing but I kept refusing, but must admit that they did have a talent for making that option sound very appealing. During my detention I my wife gave birth to my twin sons who both died shortly after birth, the Saudi authorities showed no compassion and still never allowed me to make any contact with my family.
Well Even if they were tortured it does not necessarily mean that they are wrong. You are wrong if the country in which you are says you are wrong. They were just at the wrong place at the wrong time. And there's nothing anybody can do about it. Everybody knows that torture happens in Saudi Jails. Weren't the detainees in Guatanamo Bay tortured? Just like that, this too is a war on terrorism. So the Saudi's doing what seemed right to them is right.
Patrick Gregory, England
One cannot 'civilise' a country in 25 years despite their wealth. Their views on torture are therefore not surprising. But having lived in Saudi I do feel there is a lack of support from the British embassy who are much more nervous of offending locals than helping Brits. It is significant that no Americans have been accused and jailed. Can one imagine America tolerating such abuse of one of their own?
Saudi Arabia is a backward country made rich by oil. Socially, religiously and mentally it still lives in the middle ages and represents one of the most violent and oppressive regimes in the world. Any Westerner or non-Muslim who steps foot in the country needs his/her head examining. Saudi Arabia and other states like it should be removed from the map of international diplomacy - we should have no relationship with them.
When a country has 75% of the world's oil, they will continue to dictate to the United States, United Kingdom. Hopefully America will get its hand on Iraq's oil and this barbaric state will lose its favouritism with the developed world
Amanullah De Sondy, Scotland
Part of the Islam-Western problem is that the lack of tolerance that exists for each other's culture. Western journalists often cite the Islamic means of ensuring justice as evidence of an antiquated system. The conclusions are often correct and Islamic countries need to address this weakness. However, the objective of justice is a distinct question that is set apart from the choice of punishment. If the justice system is efficient and accurate then how that prisoner is punished is not subject to some universal law that says that prison is right and beheading is wrong. The secular view on punishment is not morally superior to Shariah law which prescribes such harsh measures. It is a matter of history, culture and choice. The pursuit of justice and the elimination of corruption are universal values. If Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia felt that their "divine" system of law was properly respected by Westerners then they might be more willing to listen to Western thoughts regarding the legal process and in defence of consistence justice.
Excellent and important documentary. The corruption of Saudi and the influence of Wahabiism across the world has been covered up for too long.
Now after the westerners being tortured in Saudi Arabia, I hope the tough talking (only talking) Mr Blair and his godfather Mr Bush will finally have the courage to confront the Saudi Kingdom - but it will not be easy - not be easy at all !
Jonathan, Hong Kong
I thought John Sweeney's report was both courageous and enlightening. Getting an interview with the Saudi Foreign Minister was a coup, all the more pity therefore he could not have taken the line of questioning further. Instead of repeating the allegation of torture again and again why not ask the Foreign Minister for permission to freely visit the British prisoners in Ryadh. If Saudi has nothing to hide, then this should be granted, following this line of questioning may have revealed even more of the Saudi hypocrisy.
I think the days of pretending we are friends of Muslims and Arabs is over.
I am deeply frustrated that the obvious staged confessions of the accused and scientific findings of torture have been vehemently denied by the Saudi foreign minister. I offer my condolences to the innocent people affected and their families. I also would like to share my contempt over the ruling party in Saudi Arabia. It saddens me that there are still places in this world ruled by a few men who base their decisions with a selfish heart coupled with a gross inhumane intellect.
Eric Berg, Norway
I lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for several years. For the Saudi Foreign Minister to sit there and deny that torture took place is, unfortunately, a typical response from a regime that uses fear and intimidation to maintain its grip over a suffering nation. They enforce restrictions on their society, yet travel overseas in their private Jumbo jets where they can drink and gamble, away from suspicious eyes. A large percentage of the Saudi GNP goes into the coffers of the Royal Family. There are however over 5000 members of the family to take care of, each with a blank cheque book. If the Saudis can try and blame foreigners for unrest in the country, instead of admitting that there is decent within their own population, then it prevents those seeking change from establishing solid support within the general population, even if they need to use torture to achieve that goal.
Saleh - I don't know exactly whose side you are on, but if it was your brother or father who had been tortured and condemned to death in a completely unjust trial held in a language he didn't speak, would you still tell people 'not to poke their noses where they don't belong'? If you are such an admirer of Saudi justice, would you like to live under their regime?
Undoubtedly an important subject but your Correspondent programme smacked of propaganda and racism. From the start your reporter criticised the Saudis for not drinking while they ate and "not having a laff." How naive. At least this was a good example of how other faiths are completely misunderstood.
Alan Kay, Northern Ireland
We are dealing with people who have very different values to our own. These men will suffer inhuman prison conditions and death because they are considered to be infidels. If this is not true, why haven't these men been given a proper trial based on sound evidence? Perhaps we should review the treatment Arabs receive within our justice system.
I am 16 years of age, and although I do not pay a lot of interest to the news, I was disgusted to see that the Saudi government are getting away with such injustices.
Gill Ashworth, England
I am a Saudi citizen. And I can state as a fact that torture is frequently used to extract information - especially when there is tremendous pressure on the government to find people responsible for attacks on foreigners. Anyone who says otherwise is lying. But the victims interviewed by Correspondent have no right to complain. It is well known among the Saudi population and the expatriate population in Saudi that the Saudi judicial system can be unjust and harsh. They knew what they were getting to when they came to this country. They knew that they were coming at their own risk. This is not a first world Western country. The authorities do have forensic scientist or investigative experts. If someone commits a crime in Saudi, chances are he will get away. That is why the public must be shown that the penalties are so severe that no one would even think to commit a crime. And examples must be made of, like the victims documented in Correspondent. And although Saudi jails are lacking in respect for human rights, I would choose to be tortured in a Saudi jail any day of the week than be in an American prison, where prisoners have a 2% chance of leaving without being sodomized and raped by fellow prisoners.
Something that is strictly taboo in Saudi jails
Thank you for an excellent program, even if it may have given the Saudis more reasons to keep innocent people behind bars to protect extremists. I personally know all the men in jail as I worked in Riyadh until just before the second bombing, and if my contract had not finished, would probably now have been jailed , beaten and made a false confession on television. Perhaps now the Government will look after the rights of British citizens, instead of the financial interests of the oil and arms industries.
I've visited "Chop-chop-square" and seen the enjoyment the Saudis have there. I can believe the torture they did because they are ruthless. The bombings worry me especially as everywhere shown on the program I'd been too. But, I still cannot believe that Britons would injure their fellow Europeans especially over something as trivial as alcohol. It was also disturbing to see the Palestinian women's support for Osama Bin Laden. Their reasoning was simply for Islam. If this is the youth of the Islamic world the western world should be scared. Thank you for producing such a well detailed program it was a real eye opener.
Well done to Mr Sweeney for a brave documentary. Having worked in Saudi (Eastern Province) for 3 and a half years in the 1980s, we can only confirm Mr Sweeney's report. The sad fact is (that despite such revelations) the house of Saud will continue to deny & flout abuse of human rights!
As a US citizen I feel that the Saudi Government has a huge problem that is slowly but quickly leaking out to the world at large. It will take some hard decisions on the part of both Britain and the USA to find alternative sources for oil and other non fossil means to power the economies. If the people of these two great lands do not wise up to their governments miss-managed foreign affairs (i.e. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict) then I believe that Sept 11 will be soon be overshadowed by a worse event that will spin the world into a third world war, with destruction on a scale not seen. God help us all.
Disturbing documentary. So many influential people hiding from the facts, the UK government needs to act.
Natalie smith, UK
Situations like this need to be brought to the public attention. When will this nation wake up and realise that we are being sold a daily dose of feel good factors and propaganda which blames one person somewhere, yet denies the reality of situations such as the one reported on. Put the questions to the British and American governments and ask them why they are obsessed with scapegoats.
I too worked in Saudi Arabia in 1979, I would not trust the Saudi's at all. Being a westerner, they are very hypocritical when it comes to their laws, if you have any trouble with a Saudi, it is best to be submissive, and on your guard, as the Saudi is always right in matters of law. I have worked with them, and I know how hypocritical they are. Censorship is rife, but I have been shown photographs of Saudis with prostitutes in Soho, London, while they have been on holiday. Like your program says, you cannot stop progress from the World Wide Web, and keep things hidden forever. I believe the British so-called bombers are totally innocent.
Although I applaud the fact that you have finally raised issues about torture in The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, there are thousands and thousands of non-western foreign workers - in particular women - who suffer tortures such as rape, abuse, beatings etc. everyday and most of them, are not in prison!
Jonathan Franklin, Netherlands
Congratulations on bringing to public attention the awful degradation suffered by British Nationals at the hands of the Saudi authorities. Please keep up the pressure to get our people released urgently. Please also put pressure on our own government to take a stand on this vital issue of human rights
My feeling is that the Arab community feel they are superior to anyone and that shows by how they ignore all the evidence. Could someone really get fair justice in such a country? The fact is that the prisoners left in Saudi have no chance unless the west is willing to barter with the house of Saud and give them something in return. Your program should be shown in the US so that the west understands what they will have to deal with.
How did the BBC get so much access within the country? This place has been closed off to foreign TV crews for years and yet to have produced a documentary like this under the government's nose is startling.
Mr Nasir Khan, UK
Does Britain have a better justice system than Saudi? Only in degrees. It is a lost cause trying to make Saudi look like an inferior country. Which country on Earth can claim to be above prejudice?
It is true that torture exists in Saudi Arabia. But this torture is largely confined to extreme right-wing Muslims who oppose the government's pro-western stance. I feel that torture in Saudi jails is only a concern to the Western media when white people are the ones tortured. Also I hope John Sweeney is aware of the horrendous torture perpetuated against the Palestinians by the State of Israel. He should also be aware of the detention without trial and torture of Muslims accused of 'terrorism' (also with no evidence) since the events of September 11th. Despite this it was still an eye-opening documentary on a country many people fail to understand.
If you want to live in safety don't interfere with others problems. The westerners have always poked their noses where they don't belong. So don't blame anyone but yourselves.
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