Royal pair’s ‘scandalous’ Saudi Arabia plans slammed

Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary have been sharply criticised for their alleged involvement in a proposed Danish visit to Saudi Arabia.

Royal pair's 'scandalous’ Saudi Arabia plans slammed
If Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary go to Saudi Arabia, it will be seen as a stamp of approval for the Saudi regime, critics said. Photo: Jens Nørgaard Larsen/Scanpix

A planned trip to Saudi Arabia by a Danish delegation that includes Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Prince Mary has come under scrutiny and now may be scrapped, TV2 reported. 

In addition to the royals, the delegation also includes a number of prominent Danish businesses, with up to 40 representatives set to travel. According to TV2, the visit, which has been kept tightly under wraps, is scheduled to take place at the end of February.

Intended to promote Danish industry and organised by the Foreign Ministry, organisations such as the Danish Chamber of Commerce (Dansk Erhverv), the Confederation of Danish Industry (Dansk Industri) and the Danish Agriculture and Food Council (Landbrug og Fødevarer) are slated to take part.

But controversy surrounding Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and recent political developments in the country, which applies a strict interpretation of Islamic law, has caused a number of participants to reconsider their involvement, according to the TV2 report.

Spokesperson Nikolaj Villumsen of the left-wing Enhedslisten party was harshly critical of the proposed official visit.

“I think it is completely scandalous, if it’s true that the royal family and industry representatives are on their way to Saudi Arabia,” Villumsen told TV2.

“[Saudi Arabia] is a brutal dictatorship where supporters of democracy are whipped, dissidents are beheaded and princes throw millions at Isis and other extremists. This is not a country that should be receiving official visits from Denmark,” he continued.

Villumsen told TV2 that he would request a meeting with Foreign Minister Kristian Jensen in order to push for the cancellation of the visit, which he sees as a form of support for the Saudi government.

Human rights organisations have also condemned the reported visit.

“The timing could not be worse. Saudi Arabia celebrated the New Year by beheading 47 people, after a year that saw a huge increase in the number of capital punishments and also reduced freedom of speech. Sending a delegation of the reported calibre at this time sends a very symbolic signal that what is going on is acceptable,” Trine Christensen, Amnesty International Denmark’s acting general secretary, told news agency Ritzau.

Among the gulf state’s New Year executions was the Shia sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, sparking a diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and its regional rival Iran. In 2015, activist and blogger Raif al-Badawi was sentenced to 1,000 lashes and ten years’ imprisonment for critical remarks on social media.