Jailed Saudi Activist Told To Deny Torture In Release ‘Deal’

Medina, Qatif, Saudi Arabia

 

Saudi authorities have offered to release jailed activist Loujain al-Hathloul in exchange for her video testimony denying that she had been tortured and sexually harassed in prison, her family claimed Tuesday.

“Saudi state security has visited my sister in prison recently. They have asked her to… appear on video to deny the torture and harassment,” her brother Walid al-Hathloul, who is based in Canada, said on Twitter.

“That was part of a deal to release her.”

There was no immediate reaction from Saudi authorities and the kingdom’s media ministry did not respond to requests for comment.

Hathloul, who recently marked her 30th birthday in jail, is among around a dozen prominent women activists who are currently facing trial after being detained last year in a sweeping crackdown on dissent.

She was among a few detainees who accused interrogators of subjecting them to torture — including electric shocks, flogging and groping in detention — a charge vigorously denied by the government.

Hathloul also accused former royal court media advisor Saud al-Qahtani of threatening to rape and kill her, according to her family.

Her brother said she had initially agreed to sign a document denying that she had been tortured, as a precondition for her release.

He added that her family had intended to keep the deal secret.

But state security officials recently visited her again in prison to demand a video testimony.

“Asking to appear on a video and to deny the torture doesn’t sound like a realistic demand,” Walid tweeted.

Her sister Lina al-Hathloul separately said her sibling was under pressure to deny the torture claim.

“(I don’t know) what I’m risking by writing this. Maybe it will harm my sister. But I can’t keep it to myself,” Lina wrote on Twitter.

“Loujain has been proposed a deal: deny the torture and she’ll be free.

“Whatever happens I am certifying it (one) more time: Loujain has been brutally tortured and sexually harassed.”

Hathloul’s siblings have previously complained they were pressured by people close to the Saudi state to stay silent over her treatment in detention.

Riyadh has faced pressure from Western governments to release women activists, most of whom were jailed last summer just before the historic lifting of a decades-long ban on female motorists.

Many were branded as traitors by local media and are standing trial over charges that include contact with foreign media, diplomats and human rights groups.

Their trial has cast a spotlight on the human rights record of the kingdom, which has also faced intense global criticism over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate last year.

AFP

More Than Two Million Muslims On Hajj Pilgrimage

Muslim pilgrims perform the “Tawaf al-Ifada”, a mandatory circumambulation around the Kaaba (the Cube), Islam’s holiest shrine, at the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia’s holy city of Mecca on August 11, 2019, following their descent from Mount Arafat.
FETHI BELAID / AFP

 

More than two million Muslims are participating in the annual hajj under sweltering conditions, as the Saudi hosts sought to deter politicisation of the pilgrimage against a backdrop of simmering Gulf tensions.

The hajj, one of the world’s largest annual religious gatherings, is one of the five pillars of Islam and must be undertaken by all Muslims with the means at least once in their lives.

It consists of a series of religious rites which are completed over five days in Islam’s holiest city and its surroundings in western Saudi Arabia. The annual hajj began on Friday.

“All of the arms of the state have been deployed (and) we are proud to serve as ‘God’s hosts’,” said security forces spokesman Bassam Attia.

“We feel cleansed by achieving this pillar of Islam and meeting people from across the world. It’s marvellous,” said Mohamed Jaafar, a 40-year-old Egyptian pilgrim.

‘A golden opportunity’

“It’s an indescribable feeling. You have to live it to understand it,” said an Algerian in his fifties completing the pilgrimage for the first time.

“It’s a golden opportunity and moment,” said his female companion.

Built in a desert valley, Mecca is home to the Kaaba, a cube structure that is the focal point of Islam and draped in a gold-embroidered black cloth.

Muslims around the world pray towards the Kaaba, which is located in the Grand Mosque, and pilgrims walk around it seven times.

Earlier on Friday, worshippers took part in Friday prayers at the mosque.

Pilgrims from around the world then headed on foot or on buses to Mina, a rugged district of Mecca at the base of Mount Arafat, where the faithful will spend Friday night.

A total of “350,000 air-conditioned tents have been pitched” in Mina, a Saudi official said.

Cooling mist sprays were deployed across the area as temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit).

Mobile clinics and ambulances were on standby along the route, while Saudi Red Crescent helicopters monitored the pilgrims’ progress from the sky.

“The whole world is here… being here in Mecca is the best feeling,” beamed Mohamed Barry, a pilgrim from Britain.

Saudi officials said that 2.26 million pilgrims had arrived in Mina by late Friday, of which 1.86 million were from abroad, the state-run SPA news agency reported.

On Saturday worshippers will climb Mount Arafat, also known as the “Mount of Mercy”, for hours of prayers and Koran recitals.

After descending, they will gather pebbles and perform the symbolic “stoning of the devil”.

That marks the beginning of Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice, marked on Sunday.

Pilgrims then return to the Grand Mosque to perform a final “tawaf” or walk around the Kaaba.

‘Politicising the hajj’

This year’s hajj takes place to a backdrop of Gulf tensions following a series of attacks on tankers, the downing of drones and the seizure of ships.

Riyadh blames regional foe Tehran for the attacks on commercial shipping, accusations Iran vehemently denies.

Despite the absence of diplomatic ties between the two countries, some 88,550 Iranian pilgrims are due to take part in the hajj this year according to Iran’s Tasnim news agency.

As in previous years, Saudi authorities have been at pains to stress that the hajj is a religious event and have sought to prevent its politicisation.

Riyadh insisted its two-year embargo on Doha — which includes restrictions on Qataris travelling to the kingdom — would not affect the pilgrimage.

But hajj official Hassan Qadi acknowledged “very few Qataris have come to Mecca for the pilgrimage”.

Saudi Arabia’s hajj ministry accused Qatar of “politicising the hajj and creating obstacles for Qatari pilgrims,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The scale of the pilgrimage presents vast security and logistical challenges, with tens of thousands of safety officers deployed.

Riyadh faced strong criticism in 2015 when some 2,300 worshippers were killed in the worst stampede in the gathering’s history.

Saudi Arabia Finally Allows Women To Travel Without ‘Male Guardian Approval’

In this file photo taken on June 13, 2019, shows Saudi women arriving at Abha airport in the popular mountain resort of the same name in the southwest of Saudi Arabia. PHOTO: FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP

 

Saudi Arabia will allow women to travel abroad without approval from a male “guardian”, the government said on Thursday, ending a restriction that drew international censure and prompted extreme attempts to flee the kingdom.

The landmark reform erodes the longstanding guardianship system that renders adult women as legal minors and allows their “guardians” — husband, father and other male relatives — to exercise arbitrary authority over them.

The decision, following years of campaigning by activists, comes after high-profile attempts by women to escape their guardians despite a string of reforms including a historic decree last year that overturned the world’s only ban on female motorists.

“A passport will be granted to any Saudi national who submits an application,” said a government ruling published in the official gazette Umm al-Qura.

The regulation effectively allows women over the age of 21 to obtain passports and leave the country without their guardian’s permission, the pro-government Okaz newspaper and other local media reported, citing senior authorities.

Women in the kingdom have long required permission from their male “guardians” to marry, renew their passports or exit the country.

The reform grants women greater autonomy and mobility, the pro-government Saudi Gazette newspaper said, hailing the decision as “one giant leap for Saudi women.”

The decision was met with jubilation on social media, with the hashtag “No guardianship over women travel” gaining traction and many posting humorous memes of women fleeing with suitcases and being chased by men.

“Some women’s dreams were aborted due to inability to leave the country for whatever reason… to study abroad, a work opportunity, or even flee if so desired,” Saudi businesswoman Muna Abu Sulayman said on Twitter.

“This change means women are in a way in full control of their legal destiny.”

The changes announced Thursday also grant Saudi women what has long been a male entitlement — the right to officially register childbirth, marriage or divorce and to be recognised as a guardian to children who are minors.

Crackdown and reform

The reform comes as Saudi Arabia faces heightened international scrutiny over its human rights record, including an ongoing trial of women activists who have long demanded that the guardianship system be dismantled.

That includes Loujain al-Hathloul, a prominent rights activist who marked her 30th birthday this week in a Saudi prison, campaigners said.

Alongside a sweeping crackdown on dissent, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — the kingdom’s de facto ruler — spearheads a wide-ranging liberalisation drive that is aimed at transforming the conservative petrostate, long criticised for its treatment of women.

His reforms include the much-celebrated decision allowing women to drive in June last year, allowing women to attend soccer games alongside men and take on jobs that once fell outside the narrow confines of traditional gender roles.

But while transforming the lives of many women, critics said the reforms will be cosmetic for many others until the kingdom abolishes the “guardianship” system.

Some have undertaken perilous attempts to escape overseas despite the reforms.

They include 18-year-old Rahaf al-Qunun, whose live-tweeted asylum plea from a Bangkok hotel in January after she fled her Saudi family drew global attention.

Later, two Saudi sisters who sought sanctuary in Hong Kong from what they called family abuse were allowed passage to a third country that was not named for their safety.

And subsequently, two other Saudi sisters fled to Georgia.

The latest reform, which weakens but does not completely dismantle the guardianship system, could lead to family clashes in the deeply patriarchal society, observers warn.

Saudi officials have expressed commitment to fighting guardianship abuse, but have warned the system can only be dismantled piecemeal to prevent a backlash from arch-conservatives.

In a one-off case last year, a Saudi court ruled in favour of a 24-year-old woman who challenged her father’s decision to not let her have a passport. But until Thursday’s ruling, she would have still required his permission to travel.

AFP

Saudi King Salman’s Brother Dies At 96

File photo: King Salman of Saudi Arabia

 

Saudi Arabia was gearing up Monday for the funeral of King Salman’s elder brother, the royal court said, after he died at the age of 96.

“His Royal Highness Prince Bandar bin Abdulaziz al-Saud passed away,” the royal court said Sunday in a brief statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.

“A funeral prayer will be performed for his soul… on Monday… at the Grand Mosque in Mecca.”

The prince was the eldest surviving son of Saudi Arabia’s founding monarch, King Abdulaziz.

The royal court did not elaborate on the cause of his death, but some local media said he had been ill for several years.

He was not said to be a politically active member of the royal Al-Saud family which counts thousands of members, only a handful of whom wield direct influence over the kingdom.

His sons, however, hold key government positions. Prince Faisal bin Bandar is the governor of Riyadh while Prince Abdullah bin Bandar is the head of the Saudi National Guard.

His death comes as King Salman’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — who sidelined his cousin as heir to the throne — consolidates his grip on power.

Cancellation Of Nicki Minaj’s Saudi Concert Stirs Online Outcry

Nicki Minaj

 

The cancellation of a concert by rapper Nicki Minaj in Saudi Arabia triggered a fresh social media storm on Wednesday, with many fans in the ultra-conservative kingdom voicing disappointment and demanding ticket refunds.

The American star on Tuesday said she pulled out of the July 18 concert in a show of support for women’s and gay rights in Saudi Arabia.

The announcement of her performance in the western city of Jeddah had prompted an online backlash from arch-conservatives as the kingdom pursues a contentious liberalisation drive that has loosened decades-old restrictions on entertainment.

“So sad, I was preparing to do a Michael Jackson dance at the party,” one Twitter user wrote as some fans angrily demanded refunds from organisers.

Organisers of the Jeddah Season cultural festival had said thousands of tickets were sold for the concert that includes performances by British musician Liam Payne and American DJ Steve Aoki.

The singer also faced a torrent of abuse for supporting gay rights in the Islamic kingdom, with one person writing on Twitter: “Cancellation of the party is good news. Praise be to Allah.”

Homosexuality is forbidden in Islam.

Minaj is well-known for her provocative, profanity-laced lyrics and skin-baring music videos.

The singer insisted on Twitter that she did not want to perform in a country where “women have no rights”, but added that her decision was not intended to “disrespect” the Saudi government.

Citing unnamed sources, a few Saudi media outlets including the pro-government Okaz newspaper insisted that it was the kingdom that canceled the concert as it went against local “customs and values”.

Saudi entertainment authorities and the media ministry did not respond to AFP’s requests for comment.

The kingdom has faced intense international scrutiny over its human rights record since last year’s killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul and the ongoing trial of women activists.

Saudi Arabia is boosting entertainment that allows citizens to have fun, in what some see as an attempt to blunt public frustration over an economic downturn and high youth unemployment.

The country’s General Entertainment Authority said it plans to pump $64 billion into the sector in the coming decade.

The reform also stems partly from an economic motive to boost domestic spending on entertainment as the kingdom has reeled from low oil prices.

Saudis currently splurge billions of dollars annually to see films and visit amusement parks in neighbouring tourist hubs like Dubai and Bahrain.

But such acts have fuelled controversy in a country still steeped in conservatism.

AFP

Sister Of Saudi Crown Prince Faces Trial Over Assault Allegations

This file photo shows Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) gestures during a meeting. PHOTO: Dan Kitwood / POOL / AFP

 

A sister of the crown prince of Saudi Arabia went on trial Tuesday in a French court over the alleged beating of a workman who was carrying out repairs in her ultra-luxury Paris apartment. 

Hassa bint Salman is a daughter of King Salman and a sister of powerful crown prince Mohammed bin Salman who is known by his initial “MBS” and is seen by many analysts as the de-facto leader of the kingdom.

She stands accused of ordering her bodyguard Rani Saidi, who is also charged, to beat up the workman Ashraf Eid after he was seen taking a photo inside her home in September 2016.

Eid, who worked in the luxury apartment block, had been called in to repair a damaged basin and told investigators he needed the pictures taken with his phone to carry out the work.

The princess, who denies the allegations and was not present in court, allegedly suspected Eid of planning to sell the photo of her apartment on the Avenue Foch, long a favourite destination for foreign millionaires in western Paris.

Eid, who was also not present in court, has said he was tied up and ordered to kiss the feet of the princess, who is thought to be in her 40s and is lionised in the Saudi in state-run media for charity work and women’s rights campaigning.

He claimed he was then beaten up and had his tools confiscated during an ordeal that lasted several hours.

In an account given to the Le Point news magazine in France, the workman reported that the princess shouted “‘Kill him, the dog, he doesn’t deserve to live.”

‘Didn’t know his intentions’

The bodyguard Saidi, who accompanies the princess on her travels in Europe and the United States, was the only one of the three main protagonists present for the first hearing, surrounded by his family.

“When I heard the princess cry for help, I came and saw them gripping the phone,” he told the court, referring to the princess and the workman.

“I grabbed him and overpowered him: I did not know his intentions,” he said. “In 12 years of work, we had stories like that. Arabs want photos and the princess is someone very important for them.”

She has been charged with complicity in armed violence, complicity in holding someone against their will, and theft.

Saidi has been charged with armed violence, theft, issuing death threats and holding someone against their will.

The princess is subject to an arrest warrant issued in France in December 2017.

‘One against the other’

The lawyer for Saidi, Yassine Bouzrou, questioned the workman’s version of events.

“My client contests that there was any act of violence and any act of kidnapping,” he told reporters outside the court. “It is the word of one against the word of the other.”

He said there are elements in the case that “contradict the plaintiff’s version” and called for the acquittal of his client.

The workman’s lawyer Georges Karouni said he would prefer comment at the end of the hearing. The Saudi princess’ lawyer Emmanuel Moyne made no comment.

The bodyguard has lodged a separate case for defamation against the workman.

Prince Mohammed sparked hopes of major social and economic reform when he was elevated to crown prince in 2017.

But his reputation was badly damaged by the murder of dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul last year and he is also seen as the driving force in Saudi’s military intervention in Yemen.

Agnes Callamard, a UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, reported “credible evidence” last month that linked the prince to the killing of Khashoggi, who was strangled and dismembered inside the consulate.

AFP

Nicki Minaj Cancels Saudi Concert Over Women’s Rights Concerns

 

Nicki Minaj has cancelled a performance in Saudi Arabia in a show of support for women’s and gay rights in the ultra-conservative kingdom, the US rapper said Tuesday.

Minaj’s scheduled appearance in the western city of Jeddah next week as part of a cultural festival had triggered a social media backlash over human rights in the country.

“After careful reflection, I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest,” Minaj said in a statement sent to AFP by her publicist.

“While I want nothing more than to bring my show to fans in Saudi Arabia, after better educating myself on the issues, I believe it is important for me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression.”

Minaj, known for her profanity-laced lyrics and raunchy music videos, was due to perform as the headline act of the festival — to be televised globally on MTV — as the kingdom loosens its decades-old restrictions on entertainment

Others scheduled to perform include British musician Liam Payne and American DJ Steve Aoki.

The New York-based Human Rights Foundation on Friday wrote Minaj an open letter urging her to withdraw from the festival, calling on her to “refuse the regime’s money” and use her global influence to demand the release of jailed Saudi women activists.

Amnesty International have described the Saudi human rights record as “abysmal,” adding that the nation is in the “grip of a sweeping crackdown against critics of the government.”

The festival in Saudi Arabia, which forbids alcohol and has a strict social code, comes as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pursues a sweeping liberalization drive that has led to new cinemas, concerts and sporting extravaganzas.

The reform is seen by some as an attempt to blunt public frustration over an economic downturn and high youth unemployment.

Saudi Arabia is also moving to boost domestic spending on entertainment and tourism, as the kingdom has reeled from low oil prices.

While Saudi Arabia is yet to offer tourist visas, the country has fast-tracked electronic permits for international visitors to attend such festivals to further boost revenue.

Surprise! Nicki Minaj To Perform In Saudi Arabia

Nicki Minaj

 

US rapper Nicki Minaj will perform in Saudi Arabia this month, organisers said, triggering a storm on social media as the ultra-conservative kingdom loosens decades-old restrictions on entertainment.

Minaj, known for her profanity-laced lyrics and raunchy music videos, will perform in the western city of Jeddah on July 18, organisers of the ongoing Jeddah Season cultural festival announced on Twitter on Tuesday.

The headline act, to be televised on MTV, will also feature British musician Liam Payne and American DJ Steve Aoki, local media reported.

“She (Minaj) is going to be actively on her social media, she’ll be posting right from the stage in Jeddah and at her hotel in Jeddah,” Robert Quirke, an event organiser, was quoted as saying by the Arab News daily.

“Everyone is going to know that Nicki Minaj has landed in Saudi Arabia.”

The performance in the kingdom, which forbids alcohol and has a strict social code, comes as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pursues a sweeping liberalisation drive that has led to new cinemas, concerts and sporting extravaganzas.

The news was widely welcomed in a country where two-thirds of the population is under 30, with one Twitter user posting a picture of Minaj and writing: “My dream has come true”.

But it also triggered outrage from conservative quarters.

“She is going to go and shake her backside and all her songs are about sex… and then everyone tells me to wear the abaya. What the hell!” one woman said in a video posted on Twitter.

Saudi Arabia is boosting entertainment that allows citizens to have fun, in what some see as an attempt to blunt public frustration over an economic downturn and high youth unemployment.

The kingdom’s General Entertainment Authority said it plans to pump $64 billion into the sector in the coming decade.

The reform also stems partly from an economic motive to boost domestic spending on entertainment as the kingdom has reeled from low oil prices.

Saudis currently splurge billions of dollars annually to see films and visit amusement parks in neighbouring tourist hubs like Dubai and Bahrain.

While Saudi Arabia is yet to offer tourist visas, the country has fast-tracked electronic permits for international visitors to attend such festivals to further boost revenue.

But such acts have fuelled controversy in a country still steeped in conservatism.

In June last year, Saudi Arabia sacked the head of its entertainment authority, following an online backlash against a circus featuring women wearing skintight leotards.

AFP

Khashoggi’s Fiancee Says US ‘Ethically’ Responsible To Seek Justice

Missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancee Hatice waits in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, on October 3, 2018.  OZAN KOSE / AFP

 

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and US resident, was killed last October 2 by Saudi agents while at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork ahead of his wedding to Hatice Cengiz.

Speaking to AFP on the sidelines of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the 36-year-old Turkish scholar described her growing desperation as she stood outside the consulate and waited for her fiance to emerge, in vain.

“At the beginning, I thought maybe something bad had happened to him, but I never thought the really far end of the picture,” she said, speaking through an interpreter.

She said she suspected that Khashoggi — a harsh critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — was experiencing some of the things he had feared.

“Maybe he was arrested inside, maybe they were interrogating him,” she said. “I never (considered) the possibility of a murder.”

With tears flowing down her cheeks and dripping into her silk hijab, she said she clung for months to the hope that the man she had planned to marry, and whose body has not been found, “might be alive”.

Massacred

But, she said, she had come to accept the truth: “He was violently murdered and massacred.”

Her comments came after the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, released a damning report last week that found “credible evidence” linking Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the killing.

The independent rights expert, who does not speak for the United Nations but reports her findings to it, called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres to initiate an international criminal investigation into the case.

Guterres’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric however said Guterres did “not have the power or the authority to launch criminal investigations without a mandate from a competent intergovernmental body. Power and authority to do that lies with member states.”

Cengiz told AFP it was obvious that the country her fiance had called home had a duty to help ensure accountability for his murder.

“Politically and ethically the USA is the country that is (responsible) for requiring an international investigation,” she said, lamenting Washington’s muted response so far.

She slammed US President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for approaching the issue in a “hazy way”, and for preferring lucrative Saudi business relations over justice.

“This attitude of the USA is highly dangerous,” she said, adding that it “sets a bad example to the rest of the world.”

“I believe Saudi Arabia should pay for this and for its actions and suspects should be sentenced. Otherwise we will all be living in a world where (only) money talks.”

Cengiz meanwhile lauded Turkey for acting “like a flagship in creating awareness regarding the murder of Khashoggi”, but said it was unfair to expect Ankara to lead calls for an international investigation.

“I think Turkey is rightfully expecting other more powerful countries to take the lead in this matter,” she said.

Trusted US political system

“Jamal didn’t actually live in Turkey,” she noted, adding that he could have settled in her home country, where he had good ties, “but he preferred the US (because) he trusted the political system there.”

Riyadh initially said it had no knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate, but later blamed the murder on rogue agents, and Saudi prosecutors have absolved the crown prince of responsibility.

But Callamard’s report said probes by Saudi Arabia and Turkey “failed to meet international standards regarding the investigation into unlawful deaths”.

Callamard is set to present her report to the Human Rights Council on Wednesday, and Cengiz said she also planned to address the body briefly to get her message across.

“High-level authorities in Saudi Arabia (may be) involved in this murder case, so it must be further investigated,” she told an event earlier Tuesday.

“There is an urgent need for an international investigation of this murder.”

Buhari Seeks OIC Support For National Development

The President Needs To Rejig His Kitchen Cabinet  Oyebode

 

President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking more support from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and other development challenges in Nigeria.

The President says the organisations Science and Technology Agenda 2026 will be beneficial in this respect.

He made this known at the 14th session of OIC taking place in Makkah, while also commending the OIC for its numerous intervention programmes in Africa and Nigeria.

Read Also: President Buhari To Visit Saudi Arabia Today For OIC Summit

Speaking further, he listed the National Food Development Programme, roads and schools rehabilitation projects and the second Niger bridge as some of the benefits from the Islamic Development Bank.

While in Makkah, President Buhari will also hold bilateral meetings with other world leaders to promote increased cooperation and collaboration on issues of mutual concern after which he is expected to return on June 2.

The 14th session coincides with the 50th anniversary of the body and has about 53 heads of state in attendance.

President Buhari To Visit Saudi Arabia Today For OIC Summit

Buhari Departs China For Nigeria After Summit
File photo of President Muhammadu Buhari

 

A day after he was inaugurated for a second term, President Muhammadu Buhari, will travel to Makka in Saudi Arabia for the Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

According to a statement by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, the President will depart Abuja today for the summit which will take place the next day. He is expected to return to the country on June 2.

At the summit, to be hosted by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the President is expected to stress the need for IOC member countries to unite and work together to combat common challenges such as terrorism and violent extremism.

President Buhari will also continue his calls for the revival of the Lake Chad Basin, and push for investments in Nigeria to create jobs and financing for development.

The theme for the summit is ‘Makkah al-Mukarramah Summit: Hand in Hand toward the Future’. It is aimed at developing a unified stance on events in the Islamic world and is expected to be attended by heads of state and governments of member states.

While in Makkah, President Buhari will hold bilateral meetings with world leaders to promote increased cooperation and collaboration on issues of mutual concern.

The President will be accompanied on the trip by Governors Mohammed Badaru Abubakar of Jigawa State, Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State and Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State.

Also on the delegation are the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Ambassador Mustapha Suleiman; Director-General, National Intelligence Agency; Ambassador Ahmed Rufa’i Abubakar; Director-General, National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA); Dr. Isa Ali Pantami; and the Chairman, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON), Abdullahi Mukthar.

President Buhari’s participation in the summit will see him join his predecessors – the late Umaru Yar’Adua and Dr Goodluck Jonathan – as Nigerian leaders who have attended the OIC conference in person.

Trump To Bypass Congress To Sell Arms To Saudi, UAE

FILES) In this file photo taken on May 20, 2017, US President Donald Trump (L) and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud take part in a signing ceremony at the Saudi Royal Court in Riyadh. MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

President Donald Trump’s administration is bypassing Congress to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, citing a threat from Iran, despite lawmakers’ concerns about their possible use against civilians in Yemen, a senator said Friday.

Senator Robert Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had used his powers to block sales of tens of thousands of precision-guided bombs to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, fearing they would contribute to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, where the US allies are mounting an offensive.

But the administration informed lawmakers that it was bypassing a legally required review by Congress to approve the sales as part of a total of 22 arms transactions to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and other nations, Menendez’s office said.

READ ALSO: Trump Congratulates India’s Modi, BJP On ‘BIG’ Election Win

“I am disappointed, but not surprised, that the Trump administration has failed once again to prioritize our long-term national security interests or stand up for human rights, and instead is granting favors to authoritarian countries like Saudi Arabia,” Menendez said in a statement.

“With this move, the president is destroying the productive and decades-long working relationship on arms sales between the Congress and the executive branch,” he said.

“The possible consequences of this decision will ultimately threaten the ability of the US defense industry to export arms in a manner that is both expeditious and responsible,” he said.

The sales come after Trump vetoed a move by Congress to stop US support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen, where tens of thousands have died and millions risk starvation in what the United Nations calls the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has resolutely defended the US support for the Saudis, noting that the Huthi rebels who control much of Yemen are allied with US adversary Iran and saying that Huthi rocket attacks into Saudi Arabia could kill Americans taking commercial flights.

AFP