Northern Ireland

University of Ulster honours Saudi prince

The University of Ulster has conferred an honorary doctorate on Prince Turki bin Faisal Al Saud of Saudi Arabia for his services to diplomatic and international relations.

The prince will be made an Honorary Doctor of Laws (LLD) at a special ceremony in Jordanstown on Tuesday.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Richard Barnett said the university was honouring the prince in recognition of his work to improve relations between the west and Saudi Arabia.

The prince served as the head of Saudi Arabia's main intelligence agency, the General Intelligence Presidency, from 1979 until 31 August 2001.

In 2002 he became the Saudi ambassador to the UK and in 2005 he was appointed the kingdom's ambassador to the United States.

He is also a co-chair of the C100 Group, an organisation set up to foster understanding between Islamic countries and the west.

Saudi Arabia is regularly criticised by human rights groups.

Recently Amnesty International called on King Abdullah to intervene in the case of two foreign nationals sentenced to death for the crime of "sorcery".

Amnesty International's Northern Ireland programme director Patrick Corrigan explained the human rights situation in the country.

"In the last year in Saudi Arabia, scores of people were executed and more were flogged. The torture of detainees is systematic and carried out with impunity," he said.

"Unfair trials are rife and thousands of people are jailed, many without charge or access to lawyers."

Mr Corrigan said that, while Amnesty International does not take a position on who should or should not receive honorary degrees, "We would take this opportunity to remind people in Northern Ireland, including students of law at the University of Ulster, that Saudi Arabia is responsible for many appalling abuses of human rights"