CNN anchor Christiane Amanpour interviewed Prince Turki al Faisal and an excerpt was posted to CNN.com in which he responded to questions about the punishment of flogging for a Saudi blogger, about the prospects for the Israeli elections and about the Iran nuclear negotiations. For your consideration we have a transcript from the interview excerpt along with the video segment.
CNN Interviews Prince Turki on Blogger Punishment
Posted March 17, 2015
[Amanpour] The world has been shocked by the blogger situation, the gentleman [Raif Badawi] who was assigned to one thousand lashes, and there’s been a lot of complaints and criticisms. I know Saudi Arabia has rejected those complaints and criticisms, but you have a new King now, you have potentially a younger generation maybe moving up in the power structure. Is it time for Saudi Arabia to give a little slack even if somebody writes something or says something that you may not like. I mean really, are lashes the kind of things that Saudi Arabia wants to be associated with in 2015?
[Prince Turki al-Faisal] You have to consider the problem from two points of view. The first point of view is that are we going to have an independent judiciary or not, and if we do have an independent judiciary whatever comes out of that then you have to live with it and try to improve it through education, through reforms of the judiciary, better understanding of the world today, et cetera, for the judges, et cetera, and that takes time. The other view is go ahead and interfere with the judiciary, and when you do interfere with the judiciary you get the same criticism from the people who objected to the decision coming out of the judiciary on these lashes as being interfering with the judiciary, that Saudi Arabia has no independent judiciary, it is backwards, et cetera, et cetera.
What the Kingdom is saying is we want an independent judiciary, but we’ve already started even before the present King came to power on a reform program for our judiciary in order – literally scores if not hundreds of sitting judges in Saudi Arabia that have been taken by this reform program to visit other countries to see how their judicial systems work. We’ve had them in the United States, we’ve had them in the U.K., we’ve had them in France and in other places, and in the Arab world as well. That is the long-term reform for the judiciary, but the King has said publicly that we are not going to have anybody interfere in our internal affairs. We’ll accept criticism as everybody does, but we will not accept vilification.
[See video here]
[Amanpour] From a gut reaction, from a personal perspective, what is your reaction to a man being lashed?
[Turki] My gut reaction to a man being lashed -
[Amanpour] For what he wrote, not for committing a murder or a crime or anything like that.
[Turki] It’s the same gut reaction that I got from seeing how those people in Abu Ghraib prison were treated by American soldiers in 2004 and 2005. It is the same gut reaction that I get even today from seeing people that have not been put on trial, that have not been charged with anything incarcerated still in Guantanamo. So it is not an issue that is unique to Saudi Arabia. If there is injustice in the world it happens in other places. What we are doing at least about it is we are trying to reform our judicial system, and hopefully we can get there sooner than people give us credit for.
[Amanpour] You have spent a long time in government, in the intelligence ministries – you know a lot about the region. What do you think is going to happen the day after tomorrow? What will be the best case scenario in the Israeli election or the outcome of the Iran P5+1 nuclear talks?
[Turki] Well let’s separate the two. The Israeli election – my hope is that the party of Mr. Herzog and his allies will come out on top and be able to make a coalition that will govern Israel and go for the Arab Peace Initiative. That is my hope. On the P5+1, I hope there is an agreement that we in Saudi Arabia can look at and say yes, this agreement safeguards our interests. It will prevent Iran from having nuclear weapons and we can go on from there. But my cynical view of the talks, P5+1, because I’ve seen how they’ve been run since the beginning is that the outcome that will come from these talks will be proliferation of nuclear enrichment, uranium enrichment, that will open the door for everybody in the area and outside the area to go that option, and the better option from my point of view is to have a zone free of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East.