Human rights campaigners line Saudi king's route to Buckingham Palace

 Saudi King Abdullah was greeted by protesters as he travelled in ceremony to Buckingham Palace yesterday. The demonstration, which was entirely peaceful, was organised by Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and included representatives from faith groups and activist comedian Mark Thomas. CAAT believes that the influence of BAE Systems has led the UK Government to ignore human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia. Demonstrators called on the Government to reopen a Serious Fraud Office investigation into the Saudi regime's arms deals with BAE. CAAT spokesperson Symon Hill said: "Demonstrations are not allowed in Saudi Arabia, so Abdullah may not be used to them. But today he encountered the reality of British public opinion. People in the UK do not want their Government allowing BAE to arm Abdullah's vicious regime, let alone inviting him to a banquet at Buckingham Palace. People from all walks of life have today insisted that Gordon Brown must put human rights and the public interest ahead of BAE's profits from Saudi Arabia." The protest was clearly visible to Abdullah and his entourage as they travelled in horsedrawn carriages. CAAT supporters later demonstrated with the same message near Parliament. The law in Saudi requires that all Saudi citizens be Muslims. Religious freedom is virtually non-existent. The Government does not provide legal recognition or protection for freedom of religion, and it is severely restricted in practice. The public practice of non-Muslim religions is prohibited. As a matter of policy, the Government guarantees and protects the right to private worship for all, including non-Muslims who gather in homes for religious practice; however, this right is not always respected in practice and is not defined in law. It is illegal to bring a Christian or Jewish book or religious symbol into Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has one of the highest death penalty rates in the world. According to human rights groups, at least two people each week are executed in Saudi Arabia. The usual form of execution is by public beheading. Women in Saudi Arabia who walk unaccompanied, or are in the company of a man who is neither their husband nor a close relative, are at risk of arrest on suspicion of prostitution or other "moral" offences. Women who breach the strict dress code also face arrest. Source: CAAT/UN/Human Rights Watch

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