TIME Saudi Arabia

Prince Charles Will Raise Plight of Christians During Saudi Arabia Visit

Prince Charles visits Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, Feb. 8, 2015.
Sam Tarling—Corbis Prince Charles visits Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan, Feb. 8, 2015.

The Prince of Wales is also likely to ask for clemency for a jailed Saudi blogger and two women arrested for driving

Prince Charles has spent much of his adult life feeling he can’t win. He’s often criticized for doing too much, “meddling” in issues of the day, yet his opponents are just as apt to accuse him of doing nothing useful at all. On Tuesday these apparently contradictory responses to the heir to the throne of the United Kingdom will crackle across the headlines and flare into scornful tweets and posts as he arrives in Saudi Arabia on a trip that has already taken in Jordan, moved on to Kuwait and will also include Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. His frequent sojourns in the Middle East rarely fail to spark controversy, and his visit to Saudi Arabia could scarcely come at a more delicate time.

The Kingdom, unlike his own, is grappling with the upheaval caused by the transition from a long-reigning monarch to a newcomer. King Salman has succeeded to the throne vacated by the Jan. 23 death of his older half-brother King Abdullah and is already rolling back some of the cautious reforms Abdullah implemented. The nation also sits at the center of the interlocking crises gripping the Middle East. It is both a wellspring of jihadism and a crucial bulwark against the march of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and other militant groups. But it is Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights and freedoms that is likely to play loudest for the Prince. Two cases, in particular, are causing outrage: Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger, who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for championing free speech in postings such as these, and Loujain al-Hathloul and Maysa al-Amoudi, two women sitting in Saudi jails, originally detained for the offense under Saudi law of driving a car despite the accident of birth that made them female.

A similarly random accident of birth gives Prince Charles a platform and an influence among the upper tiers of the Saudi establishment. Royals feel comfortable with royals. Yet that’s not the only reason the Prince has become, in the words of an official from Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, “a huge asset” to British diplomacy in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. He has assiduously been building on that innate advantage since 1993, when he delivered a speech just before embarking on a trip to Saudi Arabia. His words — startling at the time in their acknowledgment of Christianity’s own muddy history and his call for closer ties between Islam and the West — established his status as a friend of Islam; elsewhere it sowed silly rumors that still flourish in corners of the Internet, holding him to be a secret Muslim.

He has continued to reprise some of the themes of that first speech, most recently in a BBC interview just before his current travels during which he did his best to argue for religious faith as a unifying force rather than a divisive one. That view is pretty hard to marry up with the violent fractures in the region he is now touring, but it is to him an article of his own faith. That faith, despite the rumors, is Church of England Anglicanism but the Prince also believes in the common roots of religion and the interconnectedness of much more besides. “Islam — like Buddhism and Hinduism — refuses to separate man and nature, religion and science, mind and matter, and has preserved a metaphysical and unified view of ourselves and the world around us,” he told his audience in his 1993 speech on Islam.

For all these reasons, his Saudi hosts will treat him with the highest respect when he comes calling. That may well mean more photo opportunities that rebound against him, such as his participation last year in a traditional sword dance that inspired predictably scathing responses on social media

What is far less certain is that he will be able to intervene successfully on behalf of Badawi, al-Hathloul or al-Amoudi, though he is likely to use his high-level meetings to communicate the anxiety of Her Majesty’s Government about their plight. He will also raise concerns about the suffering of Christian communities in the Middle East, as he has done before and with increasing urgency as the turmoil in the region has deepened. He may have the ear of Saudi royalty but little or no sway over the country’s judiciary or its religious leaders, who operate in uneasy and fragile balance with the Saudi monarchy but are not under its control.

The imagery from his trip will not reflect these realities, producing instead a series of vignettes of a monarch-in-waiting cosying up to fellow royals, lending support rather than issuing challenges to the harsh regime. The role the Prince has carved out for himself in the region relies on him wielding such influence as he does have in private.

Catherine Mayer’s biography, Born to Be King: Prince Charles on Planet Windsor, is published in the U.S. on Feb. 17 by Henry Holt.

TIME U.K.

Putin’s ‘Mafia State’ Under Examination in U.K. Inquest Into Spy’s Radioactive Death

BRITAIN-RUSSIA-BRITAIN-POLITICS-SPY-CRIME-FILES
Martin Hayhow—AFP/Getty Images Former Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko is seen on Sept. 14, 2004.

The High Court in London opens a 10-week hearing into the 2006 death of the former Russian intelligence officer and MI6 informant Alexander Litvinenko

It took Alexander Litvinenko 23 painful days to die. It has taken another agonizing 2,987 days for the British government to open a public inquiry into his murder, a process that cannot deliver justice to the victim, his widow Marina or son Anatoly, but may at least provide an official account of events leading up to his death. As he lay dying after ingesting radioactive polonium-210, Litvinenko blamed the Kremlin. The Kremlin rejected blame. Britain for eight years dragged its heels, reluctant to push for answers that might complicate its relations with Russia.

Yet the evidence expected to unfold at the High Court in London over the next 10 weeks is likely to reveal not only an intricate web of relationships between spies and diplomats, Kremlin loyalists and dissidents, but also a startlingly simple truth. Russia, in the era of Vladimir Putin, has rarely proven susceptible to diplomacy.

That realization may finally have helped to sway Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May from her 2013 refusal to hold a public inquiry. An inquest into Litvinenko’s death had already been abandoned apparently for fear of causing a breach with Moscow. In a letter explaining her decision to block the inquiry the coroner had recommended in its place, May cited concerns over the potential impact on “international relations.” Last summer, however, May revealed a change of heart. Her announcement of a public inquiry came less than a week after the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine, an act Ukraine (and much of the rest of the world) attributed to pro-Russian separatists. Russia accused Ukraine. Whitehall sources told the BBC that the timing of the May’s announcement was “a coincidence.” That may be true, but Britain has substantially toughened its stance toward Russia since then, as have other Western countries including the U.S. where on Monday an alleged Russian spy was arrested in New York.

Litvinenko’s strange tale speaks to a world in which the public handshakes between country leaders count for little. In 1998 he broke ranks with his then employer, Russia’s spy service the FSB, alleging a state-sanctioned plot to assassinate the Kremlin-insider-turned-critic Boris Berezovsky (whose eventual death, last March, raised questions, attracting an open verdict). Litvinenko sought asylum in the U.K. in 2000 and forged close links with Berezovsky and other figures unpopular with the Kremlin, including the investigative journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, slain just weeks before Litvinenko. But he also retained friendships with some of his former colleagues and during a meeting at a London hotel with two such men, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, allegedly drank tea spiked with polonium-210. Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service named the pair as suspects in the killing, respectively in 2007 and 2012. Both men deny involvement and Russia has continued to refuse their extradition.

The polonium apparently left traces that enabled the Metropolitan Police to trace its progress around London. On the first morning of the public inquiry, Robin Tam QC, counsel to the inquiry, revealed that there may have been an earlier attempt to poison Litvinenko in October 2006 that failed. The inquiry will seek to reveal many other hitherto invisible trails and connections but key parts of the evidence will also be heard in secret. Britain may be more willing to risk Kremlin anger than it used to be, but details of Litvinenko’s later work as an informant to the British foreign intelligence service MI6 will not be publicly aired, and other matters deemed diplomatically sensitive will also be considered in private.

Despite these strictures, Litvinenko’s widow Marina, who campaigned for the inquiry, told broadcaster Sky News that she hopes the process will lead to the truth. The inquiry will weigh alternative theories: might Litvinenko have died at the hand of agencies other than the Russian state, such as organized criminals, Chechen separatists, Berezovsky’s associates, the British secret services or even by his own hand? Ben Emmerson, the counsel representing Marina Litvinenko, gave an opening speech to the inquiry forcefully rejecting these scenarios. “The startling truth, which is going to be revealed in public by the evidence in this inquiry,” he said, “is that a significant part of Russian organized crime is organized directly from the offices of the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a mafia state.” Marina Litvinenko told Sky News a key part of the truth is already clear: “I know my husband was killed, I saw how it happened. It was a torture. He died a long 23 days in front of me, in front of his son, in front of his friends.”

TIME Media

Why Taking a Page Out of a U.K. Tabloid Is Good for Women

Britain's biggest tabloid, Rupert Murdoch's the Sun, plans to retire its regular feature showing topless women

Across the globe only 24% of people featured in the news are women. Of those women who do feature, a significant portion appear in unhappy circumstances, as victims of violence or discrimination. Women with more positive messages to convey sometimes find themselves airbrushed out of the picture. So it may seem counterintuitive that feminists are hailing the decision by Britain’s red-top tabloid, the Sun, to drop a feature that for 44 years guaranteed women near-total exposure across the whole of its third page.

Yes, this Friday’s Page 3 Girl may be the last, and that’s — reasonably — good news. The Sun has not confirmed the move but its stablemate the Times of London reported that their mutual proprietor Rupert Murdoch had signed off on the decision to retire the photographs of bare-breasted models from the print edition of the tabloid. “It is about time, really,” as Yas Necati of the No More Page 3 campaign told the Times. She added: “When you open up the Sun, which is Britain’s biggest-selling family newspaper, you see images of men doing things — running the country, achieving in sport — whereas the most prominent image of a woman is one where she is sexually objectified.” The Sun’s skewed representation of the sexes was laid bare-naked in this film The Experiment, shot for the campaign.

But the film doesn’t entirely convey the pernicious genius of Page 3 or why Page 3 has been quite so damaging to women. Page 3 intends to be provocative, not just in the obvious sense, by titillating male readers, but in trying, and often succeeding, in provoking women into reacting against the Sun. Every complaint — and there have been many — served to foster a narrative equating feminism with joylessness, sexlessness, humorlessness and the ammonium stink of political correctness. The actual Page 3 items, by contrast, have often been funny, in the manner of British seaside postcards or the long-running movie franchise Carry On, in which bra straps twang and wide-eyed nymphets serve up double entendres. One Page 3 conceit provided each woman featured with space for a quote on a current-affairs issue of the day, under the punning headline “News in Briefs” — briefs being all the model in question would be wearing.

And if joy is not now unconfined among feminists at the departure of the Page 3 Girl, that’s partly because she isn’t actually leaving. She just seems to be putting on a wet T-shirt for appearances in the newspaper and will continue to disport herself topless on the Sun’s website. This is hardly a stride towards equality in the mold of the 1928 Equal Franchise Act or the 1970 Equal Pay Act, more of a tottering baby step on painfully high stilettos by a news organization that is just as liable to reverse direction if its bottom line suffers as a result.

Meanwhile bright individuals have rushed to act as the Sun’s useful idiots, decrying the disappearance of Page 3 as censorship and reinforcing the notion that a monstrous regiment of monstrous women are out to sabotage a nation’s innocent fun. Among their number, inevitably, are Page 3 alumnae including “international lingerie model” Rhian Sugden, who tweeted this:

Sugden is part right, except that the day has long arrived when people in comfy shoes and without bras determine the way the world is run and represented in the media. They’re called men. So if Britain’s leading red-top even slightly moderates the hostility towards women it cloaks as a bit of a laugh, that’s to be celebrated. In moderation.

TIME

Je Suis Charlie: Crowds in London Stand With Charlie Hebdo

People raise pens and signs during a vigil to pay tribute to the victims of a shooting by gunmen at the offices of weekly satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in Paris, at Trafalgar Square in London, Jan. 7, 2015.
Suzanne Plunkett—Reuters People raise pens and signs during a vigil to pay tribute to the victims of a shooting by gunmen at the Paris headquarters of the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo at Trafalgar Square in London on Jan. 7, 2015

People protesting the Paris killings met in Trafalgar Square as British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel discussed the attack in Downing Street

Out of the horror came something beautiful. Not all of the people who traveled to London’s Trafalgar Square, or attended similar vigils in other cities and countries throughout Europe, could explain why they felt impelled to come. They just knew that they wanted to stand together, not only to protest the slaughter at the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo, but in some way to continue the work of the French satirical newspaper. Its editors, writers and most famously its cartoonists had regularly challenged those who sought to stifle freedom of expression.

As the news of the attack spread, the hashtag #JeSuisCharlie — “I Am Charlie” — became a declaration of solidarity, and the vigils organized and publicized on social media offered a way to make that declaration substantial.

“I saw the pictures on television,” says Marie Proffit, a Frenchwoman working in London as an arts-project manager, “and I needed to do something with these feelings.” Her English friend Leanne Hammacott, who works at the Cultural Institute at King’s College London, pointed her to Facebook pages calling for people to assemble in Trafalgar Square. By 6:30 p.m. they met up with each other and another friend, Tina Westiner, a German designer also based in the city.

They stood in near silence in a crowd of several hundreds under Nelson’s Column, the 19th century memorial to the British Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died fighting the French and the Spanish. But on this evening history bound rather than divided. Members of the crowd held up pens — mightier than the sword — and flowers and placards: “Je Suis Charlie.”

Less than a minute away at 10 Downing Street, the leaders of two European countries who have not always seen eye to eye also focused on common ground. Germany has taken on the 2015 presidency of the G-7 group of nations and its Chancellor Angela Merkel had arrived in the U.K. on Jan. 7 to meet with British Prime Minister David Cameron. On the agenda was a weighty palette of issues, from the fight against Ebola to the stuttering economy and the sharpening crisis in the euro zone — and of the European Union itself.

The E.U. evolved from a project designed to create peace. But these days the union is increasingly a source of friction, between countries and within them. Conflict has returned to the continent. Over dinner the leaders planned to discuss Russia and Ukraine. “There’s still time,” Cameron said at a joint press conference with Merkel, “for Vladimir Putin to change course.”

He and Merkel put on a united front, and especially as they reflected on the horror in Paris. The U.K. security services MI5 and MI6 had given the leaders a joint briefing, who in turn emphasized the importance of international cooperation in combating terrorist attacks. Both leaders also spoke of the importance of upholding free speech.

“There is no one single answer to these appalling terrorist attacks,” said Cameron. “We have to all be vigilant. We have to try to address all the problems of radicalization that have happened in our country. But as we do all these things, we must be very clear about one thing, which is we should never give up the values that we believe in and defend as part of our democracy and civilization and believing in a free press, in freedom of expression, in the right of people to write and say what they believe. These are the things we are defending. We should be very clear on this day that these values that we have are not sources of weakness for us, they are sources of strength.”

#JeSuisCharlie. We all are.

TIME United Kingdom

British Royal Officials Weighing Prince Andrew’s Legal Options

Officials do not rule out the royal court taking legal action

In September 2013 armed police confronted a suspected intruder in the lush gardens of Buckingham Palace, provoking the target of their suspicions to howl with outrage: “Do you know who I am?” The officers offered apologies for failing to recognize Prince Andrew, but the Queen’s second son, fifth in line to the British throne, might not now be embroiled in controversy if he hadn’t been groping for an answer to the same question for more than a decade. Since retiring from the Royal Navy in 2001, he has been more at sea than ever.

The controversy relating to the disgraced U.S. financier Jeffrey Epstein shows no signs of dying down any time soon, no matter that Andrew is “incredibly clear” in the words of a royal source that he has done nothing wrong. A legal process against Epstein in the U.S. must take its course and Virginia Roberts, one of the litigants, is reported to be mulling a tell-all book. The palace usually refuses to comment on matters relating to the private lives of the royals but has been bounced into making two extraordinary statements, the first on Jan. 2 rejecting “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors” by the Prince as “categorically untrue”; the second on Jan. 4 referring to Andrew by his official title. “It is emphatically denied,” said the palace, “that HRH The Duke of York had any form of sexual contact or relationship with Virginia Roberts. The allegations made are false and without any foundation.”

MORE: Rude Royal: WikiLeaks Reveals Prince Andrew’s Undiplomatic Remarks

The second rebuttal came in response to an interview with Roberts in the Mail on Sunday. She alleged she had worked for Epstein for three years as a “sex slave” and had on three separate occasions while only 17 been steered by him to sexual contacts with the Prince. Roberts waived anonymity to give the interview. In December, as “Jane Doe 3,” she had joined a civil suit in a Florida court with three other women, all claiming past abuse by Epstein and objecting to the arrangement that saw him convicted in 2008 on a charge of procuring an underaged person for prostitution rather than answering in court to the allegations of Roberts and her fellow litigants. The documents lodged by Roberts in the civil suit not only allege sexual relations with the Prince and with Epstein but also with the former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who has vigorously denied the claims and used an interview with the BBC to accuse Roberts of lying. In a second BBC interview, Dershowitz said he hoped for the opportunity to test Roberts’ allegations in court and urged Prince Andrew to “take whatever legal action is available.” Lawyers consulting with palace officials have indicated that the options for such action appear limited. Even if a case could be brought, palace sources are aware that such a course would be fraught with risk, at very least dragging back into the public eye the messy backstory that brought Andrew into Epstein’s orbit.

It’s at very least a tale of money and poor judgment. The Prince is by no means the only senior royal to seek out wealthy company, lured by the apparent protection such company affords — the secluded retreats, the private security, the largesse. Andrew, like his big brother Charles, often seeks to raise money for his own charitable ventures. But in 2010, when Andrew’s ex-wife Sarah Ferguson — “Fergie” — came close to bankruptcy, charity began closer to home with Epstein helping to pay off her debts. This embarrassing revelation emerged after a photographer snapped Epstein, recently released after serving 13 months of his 18-month jail sentence, strolling through Central Park in New York in conversation with the Prince. Andrew’s decision to maintain the friendship despite Epstein’s criminal conviction unleashed a wave of criticism that eventually precipitated the royal’s 2011 resignation from his post as the U.K.’s special representative for international trade and investment. It wasn’t a paid job but had been the Prince’s main occupation since his navy days.

MORE: Prince Andrew Abseils Down Europe’s Tallest Skyscraper

The challenge for Andrew and his palace minders has long been how to keep him meaningfully occupied and out of the headlines. There isn’t really enough royal work to go round, especially since the younger generation has started to pitch in. The Prince’s penchant for the good life earned him the nickname “Air Miles Andy” and has resulted in a trove of images that consolidated his image as a playboy, including a shot of him on Epstein’s yacht in 2001 surrounded by topless women and, from the same year, with his arm around the waist of a pretty blond: Virginia Roberts.

He has also broken bread with some pretty dodgy people, sometimes of choice and sometimes at the behest of the U.K. government, which likes to deploy royal soft power around the world. Until the financier’s downfall and conviction, Epstein appeared reasonably respectable by comparison, with a circle of friends that has been reported to include former President Bill Clinton among other well-known figures. The litigants have questioned whether Epstein’s connections helped him to strike his 2008 plea bargain. A royal source says that Prince Andrew vehemently denies having interceded with the U.S. authorities on Epstein’s behalf.

Another source speaks of the quiet work that has gone into carving out a lower profile set of activities for Andrew in the years since his association with Epstein tipped him out of the U.K. trade role. He had seemed, rather later in life, to be finding himself by focusing on charitable work, says the source. The fresh scandal threatens to define him in quite different terms, and risks contagion to the wider Windsor brand, and that is why palace officials will not fully rule out any options about what may happen, not even the prospect of the royal court seeking redress from a court of law.

Read next: Palace ‘Emphatically’ Denies Prince Andrew Had Sex With Teen as Alleged Victim Speaks Out

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