04:08 GMT20 January 2021
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    The United Kingdom is prioritizing its investment partnership with Saudi Arabia despite human rights concerns, local media reported Saturday, citing government documents.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik) – Documents seen by the Sunday publication are said to name Riyadh a "priority market" encouraging British businesses to bid for Saudi health, security, defense and justice contracts.

    "It’s becoming increasingly clear that ministers are bent on ever-closer ties with the world’s most notorious human rights abusers," the Reprieve non-profit’s death penalty team director, Maya Foa, told The Observer.

    Documents seen by the Sunday publication are said to name Riyadh a "priority market" encouraging British businesses to bid for Saudi health, security, defense and justice contracts.

    One of the cited UK-Saudi deals is a 2013 Trade and Investment Defense and Security Organization (UKTI) document outlining the Middle East’s "ballooned" global policing and security market. UKTI is said to offer grants to support entities including those selling security equipment to take part in exhibitions aimed at emerging markets, specifically Saudi Arabia.

    Other agreements include a UK National College of Policing secret memorandum of understanding to help modernize the Saudi Interior Ministry and a 2011 healthcare memorandum.

    Foa called on UK ministers to "urgently come clean" about the true extent of London’s investment partnership with Riyadh.

    On Tuesday, Downing Street announced the cancellation of a $9.1-million Saudi prison training program amid a backlash against the sentencing of a 74-year-old Briton to 260 lashes for transporting homemade wine.

    Another global outcry broke out against the pending death sentences of three Saudi youths who were arrested at the age of 17 in 2012. Last year, the three Shiite activists were sentenced to death and are thought to have been moved to solitary confinement this month.

    Amnesty International calculates that 137 Saudi citizens have been executed in 2015, up from 90 last year. The group’s ranking places Saudi Arabia as the third-highest state executioner in the world.

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    Tags:
    contracts, UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), Saudi Arabia, Europe, United Kingdom
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