Politics

Cameron Avoids Questions Over Saudi Prison Bid

The Prime Minister said that "Britain does not support the death penalty", but avoided commenting on a controversial contract bid to advise the Saudi Arabian prison system.

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As Cameron condemned atrocities committed by ISIS in Syria, Marr pointed out that the Saudi government "carry our more beheadings than ISIL do themselves," referring to 21-year-old Mohammed al-Nimr, who is currently facing beheading and crucifixion in Saudi Arabia.

Cameron said his message to the Saudi government was, "don't do it. We raised this case with the Saudis as we raise all human rights case with them, and we don't agree with the way that they go about these things."

"We've never stood back just because they are partners when it comes to national security, but we never stint in telling them that we don't agree with them on these human rights issues."

But when Marr called into question whether Britain should be bidding for a prison contract with a regime that is carrying out so many beheadings, Cameron avoided the question and reiterated that "we wouldn't ever be part of the punishment that they carry out."

He added: "There's a different matter between helping supply the police or military, but we would never be part of the sort of punishments that they hand out because Britain does not support the death penalty anywhere in the world."

The £5.9 million contract proposed under the last justice minister, Chris Grayling, would see Britain advisising the Saudi Arabian prison system on training needs delivered through Just Solutions International (JSI), the commercial arm of the Ministry of Justice (MOJ).

During his first speech as the leader of the Labour party on Tuesday, Jeremy Corbyn called on Cameron to intervene with the planned beheading and crucifixion of al-Nimr and to "terminate that bid made by the Ministry of Justice to provide prison services for Saudi Arabia – which would be required to carry out the sentence that would be put down on Mohammed Ali al-Nimr."

The secretary of state for Justice, Michael Gove, is said to be firmly against the idea of Britain trading with regimes that carry out capital punishment, but it appears JSI's deal with the Saudi government is going ahead.

Laura Silver is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Laura Silver at laura.silver@buzzfeed.com.

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