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Saudi Princess fearing death penalty gets UK asylum

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    Princess fearing death penalty gets UK asylum 4:00AM Tuesday Jul 21, 2009 By Robert Verkaik A Saudi Arabian princess who had an illegitimate child with a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 21, 2009
       Princess fearing death penalty gets UK asylum
      4:00AM Tuesday Jul 21, 2009
      By Robert Verkaik

      A Saudi Arabian princess who had an illegitimate child with a British man has secretly been granted asylum in Britain after she claimed she faced the death penalty if she was forced to return home.

      The young woman, who has been granted anonymity by the courts, won her claim for refugee status after telling a judge that her adulterous affair made her liable to death by stoning.

      Her case is one of a small number of claims for asylum brought by citizens of Saudi Arabia which are not openly acknowledged by either government.

      British diplomats believe that to do so would in effect be to highlight the persecution of women in Saudi Arabia, which would be viewed as open criticism of the House of Saud and lead to embarrassing publicity for both governments.

      The woman, who comes from a very wealthy Saudi family, says she met her English boyfriend - who is not a Muslim - during a visit to London.

      She became pregnant the following year and, worried that her elderly husband - a member of the royal family of Saudi Arabia - had become suspicious of her behaviour, she persuaded him to let her visit the UK again to give birth in secret. She feared for her life if she returned to Saudi Arabia.

      She persuaded the court that if she returned to the Gulf state, she and her child would be subject to capital punishment under Sharia law - specifically flogging and stoning to death.

      She was also worried about the possibility of an honour killing.

      Since she fled Saudi Arabia, her family and her husband's family have broken off contact with her.

      The woman has been granted permanent leave to remain in the UK after the Immigration and Asylum tribunal allowed her appeal.

      The Home Office yesterday declined to discuss the case. A spokesman for the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in London said that he would call back but subsequently became unavailable.

      Relations between the UK and Saudi Arabia have been strained in recent years and were brought to a head in 2006 when then Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened to end a Serious Fraud Office (SFO) inquiry into alleged kickbacks paid in a multibillion-dollar military aircraft deal between the two states.

      The Saudi royal family were deeply concerned that investigators might try to open their Swiss bank accounts, it was alleged at the time.

      This led the Saudis to threaten to restrict the sharing of intelligence relating to terror activity if the prosecution went ahead. They also threatened to pull out of other highly-lucrative arms deals.

      Last year, the House of Lords ruled that the SFO's decision to drop the corruption investigation into the £43 billion ($108 billion) Saudi arms deal with BAE Systems had been unlawful.

      In a hard-hitting ruling, two High Court judges described the SFO's decision as an "outrage". One of them, Lord Justice Moses, said that the SFO and the Government had given in to "blatant threats" that Saudi intelligence co-operation would end unless the probe into corruption was halted.

      Secrecy surrounds much of the Saudi legal system, but in a recent report on the use of the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, Amnesty International highlighted its extensive use against men and women. Adulterers face public stonings and floggings and, in serious cases, beheadings and hangings.

      - INDEPENDENT
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