Why wouldn’t you call on the king to issue a royal pardon?

Oh, do better, State Department. Come on.

Via Paul Fidalgo at The Morning Heresy – a passage from the daily press briefing at State.

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia.


QUESTION: Do you have any comment or reaction on the upholding by the supreme court of the blogger’s verdict and punishment by flogging?

MR RATHKE: We are deeply concerned that the Saudi supreme court has upheld the 10-year prison sentence and 1,000 lashes for human rights activist and blogger Raif Badawi for exercising his rights to freedom of expression and religion. As we had previously said back in January, the United States Government continues to call on Saudi authorities to cancel this brutal punishment and to review Badawi’s case and sentence. We strongly oppose laws, including apostasy laws, that restrict the exercise of freedom of expression, and we urge all countries to uphold these.

QUESTION: So would you like to see this – the court said the only way it could be overturned was with a royal pardon. Would you be – are you looking for the new king to grant a pardon in this case?

MR RATHKE: Well, I don’t have anything further to say about the internal workings of how Saudi authorities may address the case, but I would go back to our call on Saudi authorities to cancel this punishment and to review the case and review the sentence.

QUESTION: Well, that sounds to me like you’re calling for the king to pardon him.

MR RATHKE: I don’t have –

QUESTION: Well, if you called on them –

MR RATHKE: — more to say about –

QUESTION: — back in January to review the case and then to cancel the punishment, they have reviewed it now, the court has at least, and upheld it. So you still want it to be reviewed and – the case to be reviewed and the punishment to be canceled, correct? That’s what I’m hearing.

MR RATHKE: Yeah, that’s our answer.

QUESTION: The only way – the court says the only way that that can happen is if a royal pardon is issued. Ergo, or does that mean that you are calling on the king to issue a pardon?

MR RATHKE: I’m not going to go beyond what I said. That’s –

QUESTION: Well, then it doesn’t sound like – I mean, if you won’t call on the king to issue a pardon, which is what the court says is the only way that the punishment or the case can be dismissed, then I don’t understand what the point of you getting up here and saying that you’re deeply concerned about it is because you’re clearly not going to do anything – do the one thing that – or call on the king to do the one thing that –

MR RATHKE: To go back to the verb you used earlier, I’m not going to parse the Saudi court’s decision. But the United States Government’s view remains that we believe that the punishment should be canceled and that the case and the sentence should be reviewed.

QUESTION: But if the only way that that can happen is by royal pardon, why wouldn’t you call on the king to issue a royal pardon?

MR RATHKE: I just don’t have anything further to say on that one.

Thanks for nothing.



  1. copernicus says

    In my opinion, Rathke was absolutely correct to resist telling the Saudi king to pardon Badawi. He made the US position utterly clear–that the Saudi government had violated Badawi’s basic right to freedoms of religion and expression and that they should stop punishing him. If the US tells the Saudi royal how to go about correcting their mistake, that would make a pardon look even more humiliating for the king. The interviewer came off as harassing Rathke and actually somewhat stepped on the message. This is not about how to fix the problem. It is about the fact that the problem should be fixed. Let the Saudis figure out for themselves how to do it, but just do it.

  2. johnthedrunkard says

    The Saudi courts, like the ‘government’ and every other institution there, consist of the moment’s whim of the Saud clan, and the Wahhabi clergy.

    In recent cases, the courts have shown themselves quite capable of arbitrary and immediate overturning or exaggeration of previous decisions with no regard for evidence or judgment.

    We are not dealing with a ‘government’ in any normal sense. We are dealing with a gang/clan and its clerical enforcers.

  3. rjw1 says

    @1 copernicus,

    Why should the custodians of Mecca give a rat’s about the opinions of Kufars? Perhaps Washington should threaten to bomb the crap out of the Kingdom.

    @2 johnthedrunkard,

    Yes, Saudi Arabia and those other Gulf oil ‘countries’ are usually described as a ‘family with an oil company attached’ and a primitive, brutal, bigoted family as well.

  4. says

    We don’t know for certain that the US government hasn’t been more direct with the King including asking for the King to intervene.

    The US government didn’t like it when the Pope asked for someone on death row to be taken off death row so I’m sure the State Department isn’t going to express anything publicly that may cause the King some stress.

  5. Dunc says

    Yeah, we wouldn’t want to cause the dear old Saudis any stress, would we? We’re quite happy to bomb the fuck out of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, arm the rebels in Syria, and drone-assassinate anybody we like in Yemen and Pakistan, all ostensibly in the name of freedom, democracy and human rights, but god forbid we offend the god-damn Saudis.

  6. Garrett says

    If the actual goal is to free Raif, then I think this statement is great. If the goal is to shame the Saudis for their brutal criminal justice system and human rights abuses, then it obviously fails. Having the U.S. publicly demand a royal pardon reduces the chance that Raif will be freed because the king can’t been seen as kowtowing to American demands. For Raif to be freed, the Saudis need to be able to save face somehow; it’s as simple as that. We don’t and can’t know what back channel diplomacy is going on, so we don’t have enough information to evaluate the State Department’s efforts.

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