The families of human rights campaigners held in Saudi jails have written to Premier League chief executive Richard Masters with a personal plea that the takeover of Newcastle United is not allowed to go ahead while their loved ones remain imprisoned. The letter, organised by human rights charity Grant Liberty, “begs” the competition to “do the right thing” and use its “unique opportunity to demand change”.

The Premier League has spent the past four months assessing the controversial £300m takeover, which is led by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). The letter points out how the state is an absolute monarchy, so PIF’s “leadership is therefore indivisible from the actions of the Crown Prince and the Saudi state”, offering “clear moral case for refusal”.

It is signed by the families of: Logan al-Hathloul, a 30-year-old women’s rights activist under arrest since 2018; Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, a 36-year-old Saudi humanitarian worker and employee of Red Crescent, held since 2018; Aida al-Ghamidi and her sons Sultan and Adil, held since March 2018 because her son is a prominent opposition leader; Dr Salman Alodah, a 63-year-old scholar and campaigner for democracy potentially facing the death penalty after calling for peace on Twitter in 2017.

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The letter goes on to outline the treatment of each, citing torture and threats of rape, saying it is “vital” the Premier League hear their stories before making a decision.

“In short, we are begging you to do the right thing – Saudi Arabia must not be allowed to buy its way into the Premier League while our loved ones languish in jail under the most dreadful of circumstances,” the letter read. “They have been beaten, tortured, threatened with murder and sexual assault, held in isolation – and we fear they could die at the hands of their captors just as many, including Jamal Khashoggi, have died before them.”

It goes on to say: “It is not too late to do the right thing. Football is the global game and you operate its most popular league – you have a unique opportunity to demand change. The purchase of Newcastle United Football Club by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, in the light of the treatment of our loved ones and the human rights abuses outlined in this letter and elsewhere, is a moral outrage, would cause irreparable damage to the Premier League’s reputation and may well contravene your own rules.

“We are begging you – please stop the deal and join our calls for the freedom of all human rights campaigners held in Saudi prisons.”

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