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Family of man facing death sentence in Saudi Arabia write to Lionel Messi to urge him to intervene

The Times reports on the family of Mohammed al Faraj, a young man facing execution in Saudi Arabia for attending demonstrations against the state, writing to Lionel Messi, the country’s new tourism ambassador, appealing for him to intervene in the case.

Reprieve’s director, Maya Foa, said: “Saudi Arabia’s rulers are investing aggressively in sport at a time when they are on track to execute more people in a calendar year than ever before. That’s not a coincidence. They killed 81 men in a single day and when the Grand Prix came to town two weeks later the sponsors and most of the drivers pretended it didn’t happen. By speaking up for human rights while he was there, Lewis Hamilton showed it doesn’t have to be that way.”

“Mohammed bin Salman [the Saudi Crown Prince] wants to be mentioned in the same breath as elite athletes and the global brands that sponsor sport, not the children his regime tortures and sentences to death or the pro-democracy protesters it executes for ‘disobedience to the ruler’. We mustn’t let sport distract us from the blood-stained record of this Saudi regime.”