Demands for release of Saudi activist as Kingdom hosts Spanish Super Cup

For the first time, the Spanish Super Cup features four teams rather than two and is contested this week in Jeddah by Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Valencia.

Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) chief Luis Rubiales struck a deal with Saudi Arabia last year, reportedly worth €120 million ($133M), to host the tournament for three years.

It’s just the latest in a growing list of sporting events staged in Saudi Arabia, including two Formula E races and the world heavyweight title fight between Anthony Joshua and Andy Ruiz. Later this year, it will host the Diriyah Tennis Cup and the world’s richest horse race.

In the build-up to Joshua’s December rematch with Ruiz, Amnesty International UK’s Head of Campaigns, Felix Jakens, said the event was another attempt by Saudi Arabia at “sportswashing,” when governments use the hosting of major events to divert attention away from human rights issues.

Portraits of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (L) and Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz are displayed under the slogan "Our pride and honor" during the Spanish Super Cup semi final between Valencia and Real Madrid.

“We’ve increasingly seen Gulf countries seek prestige and bolster their international reputations by hosting major sporting events,” Adam Coogle, Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch, told CNN ahead of Joshua’s fight.

“Unfortunately, many of these sporting events take place without these countries addressing the root causes of their reputational problems such as longstanding and systematic human rights abuses against political dissidents and activists, foreign migrant workers, and women.”

The General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia did not respond to CNN’s request…

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