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Saudi Arabia risks ‘revolution’ over basic rights: UK MP

Saudi Arabia will eventually face a “revolution” unless it decides to introduce reforms and stop abusing people’s freedom of expression, a British lawmaker has warned the kingdom.

Crispin Blunt, a Conservative Member of Parliament (MP) and chair of a parliamentary panel on detained Saudi women activists, advised Riyadh leaders to realize that a civil society was a necessity to save their monarchy system of government.

“The alternative to a consultative monarchy is an absolute monarchy and down that route lies disaster and eventually revolution,” the MP wrote in an op-ed for The Independent published on Thursday.

The lawmaker leads a detention review panel (DRP) of British MPs who have called on Riyadh to let them meet with women’s rights activists the kingdom has arrested as part of its longstanding crackdown against proponents of civil rights reforms.

Blunt hopes that his good ties with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other royals help him get access to the women, who have allegedly been subjected to torture and sexual assault in Dhahban Prison, where they are being held in custody.

Saudi security officials detained over a dozen activists in May last year, shortly before Riyadh decided to lift a years-long ban on women driving. Ironically, many of the arrested activists played a key role in the campaign that led to removing the ban.

The crackdown on women activists has been widely seen as a message to other rights advocates that reforms in the country always come from the top. It has also been as an attempt by the Saudi monarchy to discourage similar campaigns on other issues.

While Saudi authorities released some of the women without charge later on, at least eight more along with a number of male supporters of the movement for basic rights remain in custody.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and other rights groups have warned that at least three of the women have been subjected to torture and sexual assault while all have been denied access to lawyers.

Saudi Arabia has denied the “baseless” allegations.

“I am offering myself to the Saudi government to enable progress, and in today’s crisis conditions, to help rescue its tarnished reputation for justice,” Blunt wrote.

Blunt said he took pride in being a “friend” of Saudi Arabia for years and advocating UK arms deals with the kingdom despite its deadly war against Yemen.