The Foreign Office has been accused of “washing its hands” of a British man detained in Saudi Arabia since February.
Crispin Blunt MP told Sky News that the Foreign Office appeared to have a “regional policy of doing nothing to support the position of UK citizens” including his constituent Christopher Emms.
Emms was arrested in Riyadh airport after the US issued an Interpol Red Notice for him for breaching its sanctions on North Korea – although not international ones – something which Mr Blunt described as an abuse of the Interpol system.
Since then, Emms has spent five months on bail in Jeddah, waiting for the US to provide documentation to the Saudi authorities, so they can decide whether to extradite him.
Mr Blunt, who was formerly the chair of parliament’s foreign affairs committee and a special adviser to Malcolm Rifkind as foreign secretary, said: “There is an expectation under international law that the requesting state will have produced some evidence to their claim within 45 days.
“Well, it is about 140 days ago that deadline passed.
“Previous foreign secretaries have been more diligent and more up to the mark in defending the interests of British citizens,” he said of the Conservative leadership candidate Liz Truss.
“I’m hoping that this public request from me to her, as well as obviously the context of the leadership election, will have her right up to the mark on her job,” he told Sky News.
“It cannot be said that I haven’t spent every effort with her junior ministers to try and get them to act in this area, and so far it’s not worked,” added Mr Blunt.
“I’m now asking publicly, which is really all I’m left with now, to ask our Foreign Office and the overseeing ministers to act to get my constituent home, which is where he should be.”
How a British man ended up on the FBI’s ‘Most Wanted’ list for allegedly helping North Korea evade sanctions
Why is he wanted?
Christopher Emms is accused of conspiring with an American citizen to deliver a cryptocurrency conference in Pyongyang, allegedly helping the country evade a banking embargo imposed over its nuclear weapons programme.
Virgil Griffith, the American, pleaded guilty to his charge last year and has been sentenced to more than five years in prison. Emms’ co-defendant, Alejandro Cao de Benos – a public supporter of the North Korean regime – remains at large.
Emms maintains that he is innocent and has no real relationship with Cao de Benos.
He told Sky News that he supports the international sanctions targeting North Korea and that he had briefed the British security services about his trip without causing them any alarm.
Pyongyang trip ‘may have been idiotic’
Emms told Sky News, there had been a time when he thought his visit to Pyongyang in April 2019 was just a quirky tourist trip, something he would be able to tell a story about.
Mr Blunt said Emms “may have been idiotic in going to Pyongyang at all, but he most certainly was not a criminal”.
“He has been pursued in an utterly unfair way, and our Foreign Office are not really stepping up to the plate to defend him.
“On the basis of what I’ve seen, the Foreign Office policy at the moment – of not intervening in these cases – is not the right policy.
“They are not protecting and asserting the interests of the very people that they are there to protect, which are citizens of the United Kingdom,” Mr Blunt added.
A spokesperson for the Foreign Office did not comment on the details of Mr Blunt’s complaint, but told Sky News: “We are providing consular support to a British man in Saudi Arabia.”
Mr Blunt acknowledged he was supporting Rishi Sunak in the leadership contest, but said: “At the front of my consideration today is my constituent Christopher Emms.
“He doesn’t deserve to get embroiled in the Conservative leadership election in any way at all, what he needs is his state to do its duty to assert his rights to the Saudis, and to tell the Americans to back off.
“If they want him to come to the United States to face American justice for breaking American law, then they need to explain to British courts why that is the case.”
The US and Saudi Arabian embassies in London, as well as Liz Truss’ parliamentary office and Rishi Sunak’s campaign team, did not respond to Sky News’ requests for a response.
Source : Sky.com