Sister of Death Row Inmate Makes Plea to Race Car Driver

She asks Lewis Hamilton to use his clout to free her sibling in Saudi Arabia
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 2, 2021 11:05 AM CST
Sister of Death Row Inmate Makes Plea to Race Car Driver
Lewis Hamilton of Britain arrives in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, on Thursday.   (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)

(Newser) – The sister of a man who was sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia is asking seven-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton to help save her brother's life. Zeinab Abu Al-Kheir told the AP in a telephone interview that Hamilton's declaration two weeks ago in Qatar that F1 is "duty bound" to raise awareness on human rights makes her think that he might be able to save her brother, Hussein Abu Al-Kheir. The spotlight of auto racing pivots to Saudi Arabia on Sunday when the kingdom for the first time hosts an F1 contest. "Dear Lewis, I'm writing to you in the hope that can save my brother's life," Zeinab Abu Al-Kheir wrote last week to Hamilton from her home in Canada. "Just saying his name while you are in Saudi Arabia may be enough."

Asked about the letter during his prerace news conference on Thursday, Hamilton said, "I'm not really sure which letter you're referring to, so I can't really comment on that one." Abu Al-Kheir, whose younger brother is jailed in Tabuk, Saudi Arabia, said she hopes Hamilton might become a connection to powerful Saudis. "A famous man like Hamilton can do something, he can talk with the prince [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman], the minister of interior, or even with King Salman," Abu Al-Kheir said from her home near Ottawa. "People like Hamilton bring attention to the governments everywhere."

In her letter to Hamilton, Abu Al-Kheir says her brother, a 56-year-old Jordanian, was put on death row five years ago on drug-related charges. She says the husband and father of eight was unwittingly used as a drug mule. On his route from Jordan into Saudi Arabia for work as a driver, customs officers one day searched his car. "For 12 days, my brother told the officers the truth: that he knew nothing about the pills," Abu Al-Kheir wrote. She says he eventually gave a false confession because he was being tortured. According to the legal action group Reprieve, 392 people have been executed for nonviolent crimes in the six years that King Salman and the powerful crown prince have ruled.

(Read more Saudi Arabia stories.)

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