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Saudi Arabia’s human rights record may be overlooked over need for cheap oil, groups say

The mass execution of 81 people in one day by Saudi Arabia, condemned by activist groups as a “massacre,” has prompted fresh fears that the kingdom’s human rights record will once again be overlooked amid the global energy crisis.

Amnesty International has led the calls for Saudi Arabia to abolish the death penalty in the wake of the mass execution, with some of the men executed for allegedly taking part in anti-government protests.

Just days after the mass execution, which prompted international condemnation, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is traveling to Saudi Arabia amid concerns about the global energy supply following the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Asked about the executions ahead of Johnson’s trip on Tuesday, a Downing Street spokesperson told ABC News: “The U.K. is firmly opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances and in every country as a matter of principle. The government will be raising this with the authorities in Saudi Arabia.”

Reprieve, however, warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could cause world leaders to turn a blind eye at Saudi Arabia’s latest human rights violations for the sake of securing lower fuel prices.

“Mohammed Bin Salman is betting that the West will look away because it would rather fund his blood-soaked petro-state than Putin’s war machine,” Reprieve’s Foa said.

Michelle Bachelet of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said investigations of the execution “indicate that some of those executed were sentenced to death following trials that did not meet fair trial and due process guarantees, and for crimes that did not appear to meet the most serious crimes threshold, as required under international law.”

She expressed concerns that Saudi Arabia’s “extremely broad definition of terrorism, including non-violent acts” leads to “criminalizing people exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.”

“We must not show our revulsion for Vladimir Putin’s atrocities by rewarding those of Mohammed Bin Salman,” Foa said. “Striking a deal with Saudi Arabia now, despite this mass execution, would virtually guarantee that more people whose only crime was to challenge the status quo will be executed.”

Read the full story on ABC News.