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Charles urged to raise concerns

The Prince of Wales has been urged to raise "concerns over human rights" during his extensive Middle East tour next month by Amnesty International UK.

Charles will visit a string of Gulf States during a six-day tour including Saudi Arabia and Qatar which have faced condemnation for alleged human rights abuses.

The campaigning organisation has suggested that Charles could feel compelled to express concerns about jailed Saudi blogger Raif Badawi, who faces a decade behind bars and 1,000 lashes after being convicted of insulting Islam.

Or highlight the plight of foreign workers employed to build the infrastructure of the 2022 Qatar World Cup.

Last week Charles travelled to the Saudi capital Riyadh, as did a number of world leaders including David Cameron, to pay his respects following the death of the nation's King Abdullah.

Abdullah died aged 90 last Thursday after two decades in control of the world's biggest oil exporter. He has been succeeded by his 79-year-old half-brother, Salman.

The decision to fly flags at half-mast on key public buildings in London drew sharp criticism from some prominent politicians who highlighted claims of Saudi Arabia's abuses of free speech, women's rights and the country's role as a cradle of Islamist extremism.

Allan Hogarth, Amnesty International UK's head of policy and government affairs, said they did not expect the Prince to become a human rights campaigner overnight but hoped he would want to "drop a few well-chosen words into his royal hosts' ears".

He added: "Prince Charles' familiarity with the palaces of the Middle East means he's in a good position to pass on some concerns over human rights, not least on things like freedom of religion which is close to his heart.

"In Saudi Arabia it's likely that Prince Charles will feel compelled to express his personal concern to King Salman at the outrageous treatment of the blogger Raif Badawi, who has been jailed for 10 years and sentenced to 1,000 lashes merely for discussing matters of religion and politics.

"And in Qatar, knowing Britain's passionate love of football, Prince Charles is likely to want to pass on the British people's extreme concern at the appalling death toll and working conditions of many migrant workers toiling away on the 2022 World Cup infrastructure.

"Whatever happens on this visit, the UK government should be following up and pressing the case for major human rights reforms in all of Prince Charles' host countries."

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