Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Phil Mickelson have been implored by a prominent human rights group to help save the life of a man on death row in Saudi Arabia ahead of this week’s LIV tournament in Jeddah.
In pointing to the case of 20-year-old Abdullah al-Howaiti, who claims he was tortured aged 14 into confessing to the murder of a policeman, UK-based Reprieve have pleaded with the golfers to use their platform to raise awareness.
The Saudi-backed LIV series has been widely criticised as a sportswashing exercise, with its players slammed for being well-rewarded pawns in the rebranding of the state. Those same golfers have now been told they have a chance to assist change in the country by speaking out. In a statement released to Sportsmail, Reprieve director Maya Foa said: ‘Abdullah al-Howaiti was arrested when he was just 14 years old and sentenced to death when he was 17. He remains on death row and if the Saudi Supreme Court upholds his conviction he will be at immediate risk of execution.
‘Golfers in Jeddah for this weekend’s tournament have an opportunity to raise Abdullah’s case, knowing the world will hear. All we are asking Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter and Phil Mickelson to do is say his name. Just by doing so they could save his life. Lewis Hamilton has shown elite athletes can raise human rights concerns while competing in Saudi Arabia.
‘If the LIV tour is to be a positive force for change in Saudi Arabia, British golfers must follow his example. Speaking up for Abdullah al-Howaiti would be a start.’
Foa added: ‘In March, Saudi Arabia executed 81 people on a single day, half of them convicted of attending protests, but Mohammed bin Salman would much rather we talk about the golf.
This is what sportswashing does: distract from grave human rights abuses and project a false image of a country where the death penalty is routinely used to suppress dissent.
‘The Saudi regime’s massive investment in sports, from the Public Investment Fund’s purchase of Newcastle United to hosting boxing matches and Formula One, in addition to the LIV tour, has coincided with a capital punishment crisis in the kingdom. More people were executed in the first six months of 2022 than in the previous two years combined.
‘The gap between the rhetoric of the Saudi authorities and the reality on the ground is huge. For many years, they have been telling the world they have abolished the death penalty for children, while continuing to execute and issue death sentences for childhood crimes.’ Read the full story in the Daily Mail.