Amnesty expresses human rights concerns as Saudi takeover of Newcastle looms

October 7 (Reuters) – Amnesty International on Thursday called on the Premier League to focus on human rights issues and ‘sportswashing’ as the proposed sale of Newcastle United to a consortium led by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia was getting closer.

The PIF – chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman – wants to buy Newcastle for £ 305m ($ 415m), with media indicating the deal could be announced later on Thursday. Read more

“Since this deal was first brought up, we have said that it represented a clear attempt by the Saudi authorities to wash away their appalling human rights record with the glamor of top-level football,” he said. he adds. Said Sacha Deshmukh, Managing Director of Amnesty International UK.

Saudi Arabia‘s $ 430 billion sovereign wealth fund PIF is at the center of the kingdom’s efforts to diversify its economy beyond oil.

Newcastle’s original deal collapsed in July 2020 under scrutiny from the Premier League, which came under pressure to stop the sale over concerns over the alleged hack of the broadcast in Saudi Arabia.

The piracy dispute involved Qatari company beIN Sports, the holder of the Premier League’s broadcasting rights across the Middle East, which had not been licensed to operate in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on Wednesday, removing a major obstacle to Newcastle’s deal. But concerns about the kingdom’s human rights record remain.

“Instead of allowing those implicated in serious human rights violations to enter English football just because they have deep pockets, we have urged the Premier League to change the test of its owners and managers to address the human rights issues, ”Amnesty’s Deshmukh said.

“The phrase ‘human rights’ does not even appear in the owners and managers test despite the fact that English football supposedly adheres to FIFA standards.

“We have sent the Premier League a proposal for a new human rights-compliant test and we reiterate our call on him to revise his standards on this.”

The Premier League did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Saudi government denies allegations of human rights violations and says it protects national security from extremists and external actors.

The BBC had previously reported that PIF, which provides 80% of the funding for the deal, would be treated as separate from the Saudi state under the ownership test, meaning concerns about piracy or rights violations of humans should not affect the supply.

“The Premier League needs to better understand the dynamics of sports washing and tighten its ownership rules,” Deshmukh said.

Meanwhile, Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, urged the Premier League not to approve the buyout.

Khashoggi, a critic of the crown prince, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, but his body has never been found. A US intelligence report said the prince approved the operation to kill or capture Khashoggi.

The Saudi government has denied any involvement by the crown prince and has rejected the report’s findings.

“It’s horrible to learn that the Crown Prince is about to get what he wants: to wash away his reputation and smear the name of the sport,” she told the Daily Telegraph on Thursday.

“I urge the Premier League not to give in now – now is the time to show courage and principle. It will show killers that they cannot erase their crimes.”

($ 1 = 0.7356 pounds)

Report by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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