Saudi Arabia’s worst atrocities including ‘chop chop zone’ as Toon reign begins

Saudi Arabia's blood-soaked past includes severed heads placed on spikes and an area so well-known for executions it was dubbed "chop chop square".

While the Premier League say they have received "legally binding assurances" that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle following their recent takeover, critics have ridiculed how this can be so.

Despite Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman being chair of the PIF, it is Governor Yasir Al-Rumayyan who has taken up the role of chairman at Newcastle from this week.

With David and Simon Reuben owning 10%, Amanda Staveley's PCP Capital Partners have the final 10%, with the British businesswoman and her partner Mehrdad Ghodoussi both directors.

Amnesty International have led the scrutinisation following the takeover U-turn, defending those who are "suffering persecution" and slamming the move as sportswashing.

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s CEO, said: “We can understand that this will be seen as a great day by many Newcastle United fans, but it’s also a very worrying day for anyone who cares about the ownership of English football clubs and whether these great clubs are being used to sportswash human rights abuse.

“In our assessment, this deal was always more about sportswashing than it was about football, with Saudi Arabia’s aggressive move into sport as a vehicle for image-management and PR plain for all to see.

“This will be an extremely bitter blow for human rights defenders and others suffering persecution in Saudi Arabia who will be well aware that this takeover is partly about diverting attention from their plight.

“Our call on the Premier League remains the same – it urgently needs to strengthen its owners’ and directors’ rules to make them human rights-compliant and prevent those implicated in serious human rights violations from buying their way into English football.”

Many of the criticisms have surrounded Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who the CIA have alleged was assassinated on the orders of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The Washington Post journalist visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to collect papers for his upcoming marriage.

But investigators claim he was murdered and dismembered using a bone saw, before his body was disposed of.

The following year, in 2019, Bin Salman took responsibility for the death "because it happened under his watch" but strongly denied having any prior knowledge.

Further questions have been asked about the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, which was launched back in 2015, with reports last year saying that they were searching for an exit strategy.

Human Rights Watch claim 18,400 civilians have been killed or injured since, and have accused Saudi Arabia of unlawful attacks.

Amnesty International have also reported news of the jailing of critics, and say that the state has: "Detained, prosecuted and imprisoned human rights defenders and family members of women’s rights activists for their peaceful activities and human rights work."

Public executions have also been a controversial talking point, with Saudi executioner Muhammad Saad al-Beshi telling Saudi daily Arab news in 2003, as reported by The Sun, that he was "proud to do God's work".

According to that report, one prisoner had their head impaled while another had their severed head placed on a spike as a warning to others.

Deera Square in Riyadh has been dubbed "Chop Chop Square" or "Justice Square" due to regular beheadings, which have taken place after Friday prayers and the clearing of the area by police.

According to Reuters, public executions took place here for decades although the area has since been cleared up.

But back in 2019, it was reported that 800 executions had taken place since 2015, but that had reduced dramatically last year due to a moratorium on death penalties for drug-related crimes.

However, Staveley has again enforced her message that Newcastle are not being run by the state, which is what gave Premier League bosses their approval in the Owners' and Directors' Test.

“Football’s inclusive to all, that’s the great thing about it,” says Staveley.

“I understand and appreciate all the messages on human rights and we treat them very seriously.

"But I wouldn’t bring partners into the consortium if they didn’t have the right record and PIF is autonomous and independent of the Saudi government. PIF owns Newcastle, not the Saudi state.

“In buying Newcastle PIF are not going to hide and we’re proud of them; we need, strong, brave, partners. I love brave, passionate, people, that’s how I do business.

“We want to see more investment in the north of England, levelling up’s part of the agenda."

With the full Premier League statement reading: "The Premier League, Newcastle United Football Club and St James Holdings Limited have today settled the dispute over the takeover of the club by the consortium of PIF, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports & Media.

"Following the completion of the Premier League's Owners' and Directors' Test, the club has been sold to the consortium with immediate effect.

"The legal disputes concerned which entities would own and/or have the ability to control the club following the takeover. All parties have agreed the settlement is necessary to end the long uncertainty for fans over the club’s ownership.

"The Premier League has now received legally binding assurances that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not control Newcastle United Football Club.

"All parties are pleased to have concluded this process which gives certainty and clarity to Newcastle United Football Club and their fans."

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