When Sandy Mitchell was arrested for his alleged involvement in two bombings in Saudi Arabia in December 2000, he thought it was a case of mistaken identity and that he would soon be released. Instead, he spent the next two and a half years in jail, where he was repeatedly tortured before being forced to sign a confession and admit his guilt on Saudi television. In fact, Mitchell was an innocent man. He could prove that he was at home and his car was being repaired at the time of the bombings. The Saudi authorities had no evidence of his complicity and privately they knew the attacks had been committed by al-Qaeda militants. And yet they kept Mitchell in jail and refused him access to a lawyer for a year. In July 2002, Mitchell was sentenced to death but was released before the penalty could be imposed. Saudi Babylon is the story of a shocking miscarriage of justice. But it also reveals an even more disturbing truth: how Tony Blair, Jack Straw and the Foreign Office virtually abandoned Mitchell by adopting a softly-softly diplomatic approach to the corrupt Saudi Royal Family.
Mindful of Britain's multi-billion-pound arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the Labour government was reluctant to rock the boat. As a result, Mitchell languished in jail far longer than was necessary. Based on his diaries, detailed records and minutes of meetings with ministers and officials, this is Sandy Mitchell's revelatory account of his time in prison. It is also a powerful expose of how the British government acts when one of its own citizens is illegally imprisoned and tortured by a regime with which it does business.
Mark Hollingsworth is an investigative journalist and author of several books, notably Thatcher's Gold and Defending the Realm: MI5 and the War on International Terrorism. Sandy Mitchell was jailed in Saudi Arabia for his alleged role in a series of bomb attacks that began in 2000. He was granted clemency in 2003.