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Commons outcry over Saudi executions

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FOREIGN OFFICE Minister Sir Alan Duncan joined the chorus of disapproval following the execution of 37 prisoners in Saudi Arabia.

In the House of Commons on Wednesday, April 24, Sir Vince Cable asked the Government to make a statement on the executions which took place the previous day. 

Amnesty International has condemned the executions, which included the killing of a man who was under 18 at the time of his arrest, in contravention of international law.

The Middle East research Director of Amnesty International, Lynn Maalouf called it “another gruesome indication of how the death penalty is being used as a political tool to crush dissent from within the country’s Shi’a minority”. 

The humanitarian organisation, which opposes capital punishment, say that the executions followed torture, unjust trials and forced confessions.

The Saudi authorities are thought to have executed 104 people so far in 2019. 

Those executed yesterday were charged with terrorism offences. One man was crucified. Another had his headless body displayed in public.

Responding to the urgent question, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas, Sir Alan Duncan said: “We are very concerned by the executions of 37 men in Saudi Arabia and the Foreign Office is working to establish the full facts.

“The UK Government opposes the death penalty in all circumstances and in every country, including Saudi Arabia. We regularly raise human rights concerns, including the use of the death penalty, at the highest levels with the Saudi Arabian authorities.”

In response, Sir Vince Cable said: “We are in urgent need of a reappraisal of our relationship with Saudi Arabia given the fact that the continued mediaeval barbarism of the regime does not constitute the basis for a friendly alliance and indeed makes it an enemy of our values and our human rights.”

The UK Government encourages arms sales to the Saudi kingdom and trains members of the country’s security services in this country. Saudi Arabia is engaged in a war of attrition with neighbouring Yemen, for which it has attracted widespread condemnation for targeting Yemeni civilians.

The MP for Leeds North East, Fabian Hamilton said: “Publicly pinning one of the headless bodies to a pole as a warning is not only disturbingly barbaric and medieval in nature, but an abhorrent violation of human rights. 

“According to the families of those executed, there was no prior notice that the executions would be carried out. That is a blatant flouting of international standards set out by even the most brutal of regimes that still use the death penalty. 

“We know that some, if not all, of those executed, were convicted in Saudi Arabia’s Specialised Criminal Court, which has been widely condemned by human rights groups as secretive, and which has in the past been used to try human rights activists, whom the state often wrongly regards as terrorists.

“We also know that at least three of those executed were juveniles—a clear violation of international law, which the Saudi regime appears to care very little about. 

“Abdulkarim al-Hawaj was charged with participating in demonstrations, incitement via social media and preparing banners with anti-state slogans. Reports from human rights watchdogs in the country claim that he was beaten and the so-called confessions extracted from him through various means of torture. 

“Mujtaba al-Sweikat was a student about to begin his studies at Western Michigan University when he was arrested at King Fahd airport, beaten and so-called confessions extracted through torture.

“Salman Qureish was just 18 when he was executed, but he was convicted of crimes that allegedly took place when he was still a child. The UN has condemned his sentencing and the use of the death penalty against him after he was denied basic legal rights, such as access to a lawyer.”

Carmarthen East & Dinefwr MP Jonathan Edwards said: “The vast majority of those executed yesterday were Shi’a Muslims. To what degree do the British Government consider that the Saudi regime is using the death penalty as a means of quashing dissent among a persecuted religious minority within its borders?”

Sir Alan Duncan replied: “I do not think that this is the moment for me to give an extended thesis on such matters, but I understand the hon. Gentleman’s suggestion. In many parts of the Middle East, the Sunni-Shi’a conflict is very intensive and creates enormous tension, difficulty and strife.”

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SAVEOURVENUES! Support Narberth Queens Hall

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The Queens Hall Narberth has become part of a national initiative set up by the Music Venues Trust and  is asking for your help to prevent closure of its the popular venue, alongside 100s of independent music venues up and down the country.

They have explained that as the weeks pass the doors on the Queens Hall are looking more difficult to reopen. To gain more support and funding they have set their first Crowdfunder campaign with some exciting opportunities created through teaming up with local businesses and the community.

Local communities such as Sursum Tattoo owner Mat Price has created some amazing t-shirt designs in order to help raise funds to support to Queens Hall during these very hard times for many music venues. They are limited edition so get them before they go!

Lee John Phillips of The Shed Project has also kindly donated a beautiful Narberth photo-collage for the Crowdfunder. Lee had created the original for the Oriel Q project which can be viewed  on the top floor of The Queens Hall, and the print can be seen on the wall next to the Main Hall entrance. There are once again very limited numbers of these prints, so grab one while you can. These are only some of the amazing grabs up for offer, all can be found on the Narberth Queens Hall website.

The money raised through the Crowd funder will be used to help support the venue after the impact Corona virus and lockdown has had on the hall, and will help prevent the closure. If enough money is raised to reach the amount which will support the Hall from closure the left over amount will be donated to the Music Venue Trust GMV Crisis Fund to protect other venues in fear of closure across the country.

With just hours left to donate, your time is short to show your support for one of the most well known venues in west Wales. If you want to help out, here is the link to their crowdfunded page: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/savethequeenshallnarberth

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Farm shop helps disabled

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A retail outlet selling a range of products handcrafted by local disabled people has been officially opened.

The farm shop at Scolton Manor near Haverfordwest also provides employment for those with a disability.

It is the result of collaborative working between a number of organisations.

A leading role is played by Pembrokeshire County Council’s Norman Industries – a supported factory in Snowdrop Lane, Haverfordwest, which employs people with a disability.

The opening of the Scolton Manor farm shop has enabled Norman Industries to employ a further six people in the unit, giving them experience in a retail environment and customer service.

A further three disabled people have been taken on in its craft workshop bringing the total number of people on its supported
employment programme to over 50.    

The shop supports a wide range of Pembrokeshire producers – not just Norman Industries – and has opened up a range of work-based alternative day opportunities for people in craft industries.  

Funding has been accessed through a variety of sources including from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) through its Access to Work programme, through Workways+ from European Funds and through the Welsh Government’s Integrated Care Fund.

The official opening was performed by the Vice Chairman of Pembrokeshire County Council, Michael James.

He told guests: “This enterprise is an important step in improving the wellbeing of Pembrokeshire citizens. Along with the other initiatives run by Norman Industries, it shows how the County Council has improved its support and employment of people with disability over the last two years.”

Councillor James said the work had resulted in Pembrokeshire County Council being recognised as a DWP Disability Confident
Leader – the first local authority in Wales to achieve the distinction.

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Oil refinery exported to Pakistan from Pembroke Port

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THE FINAL parts of a decommissioned oil refinery have been successfully exported to Pakistan from Pembroke Port in a six-week operation.

The former Murco refinery in Pembrokeshire closed in 2014 and during the past three years over 13,000 tonnes of cargo has been transported over the quay in seven exports to southern Asia.

Over the past couple of months, 1,690 tonnes worth of components were exported on the heavy lift vessel Regine and 1,125 tonnes on the Maria. The largest lift weighed 315 tonnes and measured 21.3m x 8.8m x 8.3m.

In addition to these heavy lift vessels, the Terra Marique barge was positioned at Gelliswick Bay to load the parts that were too large to be transported by road and taken to Pembroke Port along the Milford Haven Waterway. This was a specialist operation as sand had to be dug out of the beach, a ramp built and parts were driven onto the barge when the tide allowed.

Operation underway: The Maria at Pembroke Port

Previously in June this year, 2,227 tonnes were exported on the Grietje and last year 4,865 tonnes were exported on the Annemieke, Regine and Frauke. In 2017, 3,240 tonnes of parts were loaded onto the largest vessel to visit to Pembroke Port, the Combi Dock III.

Chris Oliver, Operations Manager at Pembroke Port, commented “The export of the refinery components from Pembroke Port ran smoothly and efficiently. We deal with a wide range of cargoes on a daily basis but this was definitely one of the larger operations in recent years. Our site is flexible in accommodating numerous sectors including breakbulk, renewables, heavy lift operations and storage with a highly experienced team on hand to deliver a safe and professional service.”

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