RIYADH, Saudi Arabia 

A top international human rights watchdog urged the G20 on Monday to pressure authorities in Saudi Arabia to release Saudi activists jailed “unlawfully.”

“G20 countries awarded Saudi Arabia the G20 presidency for 2020, despite the Saudi government’s unrelenting assault on fundamental freedoms,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement.

The statement noted that the Saudi authorities’ violations include “jailing and harassing public dissidents and human rights activists [and] unlawful attacks on civilians in Yemen.”

HRW said Saudi Arabia did not respond to international demands for accountability for the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a crime that was committed by Saudi state agents in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey in October 2018.

Saudi authorities have repeatedly denied such accusations of human rights abuses as well as Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement in Khashoggi’s killing.

“The G20 presidency has conferred an undeserved mark of international prestige on the government of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

The international watchdog called for the “unconditional release of all Saudi human rights activists accused of vague offenses based on their activism, including their contact with international human rights organizations, the United Nations Human Rights Council and international media outlets.”

Saudi Arabia assumed the presidency of the G20 in December 2019 and will chair a virtual Leaders’ Summit on Nov. 21-22.

*Ahmed Asmar contributed to this report from Ankara

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