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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.fr/arabie-saoud...

by Stéphane Aubouard

Saudi Arabian law enshrines modern-day slavery

Translated Thursday 9 February 2017, by Meghan O’Shea

Four months in prison and 300 lashes for 49 unpaid bin Laden Group foreign workers.

How far into the lands of injustice and denial of human rights will the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia travel? Information published Tuesday in the local newspaper, Al-Watan, has raised this question. The daily reports that 49 foreign workers were sentenced Tuesday to four months in prison and 300 lashes for "damage to public property and incitement to engage in disorderly conduct". A Mecca court sentenced others to forty-five days in prison. The convicted workers are employees of the bin Laden Group - a family-owned business founded in 1931 by the father of the former al-Qaeda leader. After months of being unpaid by the construction giant, the workers decided, last year, that their voices would be heard in this country where unions are banned. In May 2016, the Arab News newspaper reported that "angry workers had set fire to several bin Laden Group buses in Mecca". The authorities later confirmed that seven buses had been set alight, without specifying a motive.

70,000 workers laid off last year by the bin Laden Group

Using the oil crisis as an excuse, in an interview televised live from Riyadh, these same authorities explained that the collapse of oil revenues was the reason for the late paychecks. 70,000 workers laid off last year by the bin Laden Group are still waiting for their wages, as are tens of thousands of other employees of Saudi Oger, a firm led by the unwavering friend of the Wahhabi kingdom, the Lebanese Minister Saad Al Hariri. For these workers, often from Bangladesh, India, Pakistan or the African continent, this has resulted in a threefold punishment. Cheated out of several months of wages, on Tuesday they received another blow, this time from the judiciary. The vast majority of these workers have also been placed, de facto, under house arrest in the Saudi kingdom, due to the kafala system, a legal structure requiring that workers be sponsored by a Saudi employer in order to enter [or exit] the country: a constraint that, also, workers have found found wise to leave unchallenged.

In the spring of 2016, Abdul Sattar Makandar, an Indian, who had published a video in which he complained that he was unable to return to his country, was imprisoned under a Saudi law prohibiting "the spreading of false information" on social networks.

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