FC Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, who is one of the most marketable players in history, has been sent a message by a human rights group warning him against accepting a multi-million campaign contract from Saudi Arabia.
It has been reported that the 33-year-old has been offered a massive deal to be part of a tourism project for Saudi Arabia called Visit Saudi.
According to The Independent, Messi has been asked to be the face of the tourism campaign, but this news has been met with anger from human rights advocacy body Grant Liberty.
The group, along with families of many people imprisoned by the Arab state, have reportedly now put their heads together and reached out to the Barcelona player through an open letter, warning him against helping boost the country's reputation.
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"You are an inspiration to millions and what you say and do really matters. To put it bluntly – you have enormous power, but with that power comes great responsibility," the letter read.
"The Saudi regime wants to use you to launder its reputation. Prisoners of conscience in Saudi Arabia have been tortured, sexually assaulted, and held in prolonged solitary confinement – often for months at a time – on an industrial scale.
"Women's rights campaigners, reformist preachers, Shia activists, democracy campaigners, indeed anyone who criticises or even questions the regime can face long-term imprisonment and in some cases the death penalty.
"If you say 'yes' to Visit Saudi you are in effect saying yes to all the human rights abuses that take place today in modern Saudi Arabia. But if you say 'no' you will send an equally powerful message – that human rights matter, that decency matters, that those who torture and murder do not do so with impunity. The world must stand up to those who trample on others.
"Lionel Messi, you are a hero to millions – please use that status for good. Stand up for human rights and say no to the butchers of Jamal Khashoggi and the brutalisers of peaceful campaigners in Saudi Arabia."
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