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Model speaks out about attending Saudi music festival despite country’s human rights record

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Italian model, Pietro Boselli, has spoken out against the backlash that he and other celebrities have faced for attending the MDL Beast music festival in Saudi Arabia over the weekend amid the country’s poor human rights record more than a year after Jamal Khashoggi’s murder.

‘I just got back from Saudi. I had the most incredible time there and met the friendliest and kindest local people, and I’m really glad I got to visit this country firsthand,’ Boselli says in the video.  

‘Unfortunately, I got back and found a bunch of blanket of unilateral accusations against me and other influencers who went there, who apparently sold out to some evil country to ignore human right issues,’ the 31-year-old model added.  

Boselli called the backlash against him and others ‘utter nonsense’ coming from ‘Westerners who haven’t even been there’.

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Italian model, Pietro Boselli (pictured), has spoken out against the backlash that he and other celebrities have faced for attending the MDL Beast music festival in Saudi Arabia over the weekend

Boselli is seen posing for the camera in Saudi over the weekend

Italian model, Pietro Boselli (left, and right in Saudi), has spoken out against the backlash that he and other celebrities have faced for attending the MDL Beast music festival in Saudi Arabia over the weekend

In the caption of the video, he also says that ‘seeing is believing’.

‘Let’s NOT stereotype, isolate, hate and boycott a country. Go meet its people and hear them out. Saudi is undergoing tremendous changes, for the better. Of course this does not mean forgetting the wrong that happened there. What is wrong should be condemned,’ he wrote. 

‘But a positive change, and in this case openness, should be seen as progress, and a welcome one. Let’s please stop with this social media culture of outrage and division, and instead foster debate, tolerance and pluralism. These are the real liberal values we need. Not unilateral aggression and finger-pointing, and definitely not any more hatred.’

Boselli’s remarks comes just a day after Ryan Phillippe defended Saudi Arabia after some accused them of being ‘shameless’ and accepting six-figure sums to help rehabilitate the country’s image.

A bevy of stars have been slammed since they started inundating social media with photos of themselves attending the music festival in Riyadh without mentioning the country’s controversial human rights record.

The likes of Sofia Richie, Winnie Harlow, Alessandra Ambrosio, Joan Smalls, Irina Shayk, Stella Maxwell, Luka Sabbat, Armie Hammer, Scott Disick and Phillippe all shared multiple photos in recent days that were tagged in Riyadh.

While the majority have not responded to the backlash, Phillippe has been lashing out at people commenting on his Instagram posts.

‘Things are changing, hopefully you do too sh*thead,’ he wrote to one person. 

Boselli's (pictured in Saudi) remarks comes just a day after Ryan Phillippe defended Saudi Arabia after some accused them of being 'shameless' and accepting six-figure sums to help rehabilitate the country's image

Pietro Boselli

Boselli’s (left and right in Saudi) remarks comes just a day after Ryan Phillippe defended Saudi Arabia after some accused them of being ‘shameless’ and accepting six-figure sums to help rehabilitate the country’s image

Phillippe (pictured in Saudi) has been lashing out at people commenting on his Instagram posts

Phillippe (pictured in Saudi) has been lashing out at people commenting on his Instagram posts

Phillippe lashed out at people who commented on his posts

Phillippe lashed out at people who commented on his posts

‘Things are changing, hopefully you do too sh*thead,’ he wrote to one person 

He is among the bevy of stars have been slammed since they started inundating social media with photos of themselves attending the MDL Beast music festival in Riyadh over the weekend

He is among the bevy of stars have been slammed since they started inundating social media with photos of themselves attending the MDL Beast music festival in Riyadh over the weekend

He said to another: ‘It’s changing moron. Have you been? I’d love to take any woman important to me. F**k off.

‘1st of all I’m traveling many places in the mid east. 2nd, find me a country without issues, i’ll wait. 3rd things are changing and progressing rapidly in KSA and the people are lovely. pay better attention and quit virtue signalling princess.’ 

Critics called out the tone-deaf nature of such an event in Saudi Arabia and cited last year’s slaying of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the arrest of women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul and the treatment of LGBT residents. 

Fashion industry watchdog and popular Instagram account, Diet Prada, named and shamed some of the celebrities present, accusing them of allegedly accepting six-figure sums for attending and geo-tagging posts to ‘rehabilitate the image of Saudi Arabia’. 

Among the blast of glossy social media posts was one from actor Armie Hammer who wrote that attending the music festival and seeing Saudi men and women excited about it ‘felt like a cultural shift’ and ‘truly special’.

The condemnation was swift with high-profile journalist Yashar Ali tweeting: ‘Hope it was worth it @armiehammer. Did you find Jamal Khashoggi’s body while you were there?’ 

The backlash regarding their visit came as Saudi Arabia sentenced five people to death over the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year. 

Karen Attiah, a Washington Post reporter who was friends with Khashoggi, was among those critical of the influencer turnout, as well as Conde Nast publication Glamour UK who had a sponsored campaign from the festival. 

‘The social changes in Saudi Arabia are indeed remarkable. Jamal Khashoggi was supportive of the changes. Until regime agents killed him,’ she tweeted. 

‘Now the regime has been working overtime and spending billions to try to rehabilitate its image, partly by using western influencers.

‘The dark side of influencer culture is that it really is the ultimate expression of capitalism. Money over human lives. What good is your platform if you overlook Saudi regime’s murder and torture for a few bucks? These influencers are just for-hire human billboards.

‘These influencers and media outlets (too many to tag) who use their platforms to claim they are for women’s empowerment and social justice — but yet also take money to promote Saudi Arabia.. Insta-hypocrites. It’s all so transparent and gross.’ 

The entertainment authority that licensed MDL Beast said some people had been compensated for promoting the event, but denied such high sums were paid to individuals.  

The entertainment authority that licensed MDL Beast said some people had been compensated for promoting the event. Actor Armie Hammer is pictured above attending the festival

The entertainment authority that licensed MDL Beast said some people had been compensated for promoting the event. Actor Armie Hammer is pictured above attending the festival

The celebrities have been accused of being 'shameless' and accepting six-figure sums to help rehabilitate Saudi Arabia's image. Pictured is Irina Shayk, Stella Maxwell and Joan Smalls at the festival

The celebrities have been accused of being ‘shameless’ and accepting six-figure sums to help rehabilitate Saudi Arabia’s image. Pictured is Irina Shayk, Stella Maxwell and Joan Smalls at the festival

Olivia Culpo geo-tagged her location and said she was grateful for the warm welcome she received in Saudi Arabia

Olivia Culpo geo-tagged her location and said she was grateful for the warm welcome she received in Saudi Arabia

Irina Shayk shared multiple images of her hanging out with Stella Maxwell at the festival

Irina Shayk shared multiple images of her hanging out with Stella Maxwell at the festival

Backlash: Many in attendance have faced some backlash on social media from fans calling out the tone-deaf nature of such an event in Saudi Arabia

Backlash: Many in attendance have faced some backlash on social media from fans calling out the tone-deaf nature of such an event in Saudi Arabia

Star-studded event: Said attendees included the likes of Sofia Richie, Winnie Harlow, Alessandra Ambrosio, Joan Smalls, Irina Shayk, Luka Sabbat, Armie Hammer and Ryan Phillippe

Star-studded event: Said attendees included the likes of Sofia Richie, Winnie Harlow, Alessandra Ambrosio, Joan Smalls, Irina Shayk, Luka Sabbat, Armie Hammer and Ryan Phillippe

Model Emily Ratajkowski revealed that she turned down a paid appearance to attend the festival because she was uncomfortable with the country’s human rights record. 

‘It is very important to me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community, freedom of expression and the right to a free press,’ she said of turning down the paid gig. 

‘I hope coming forward on this brings more attention to the injustices happening there.’

Earlier this year, hip-hop star Nicki Minaj pulled out of performing in the kingdom over concerns about women’s rights, gay rights and freedom of expression. 

‘After careful reflection I have decided to no longer move forward with my scheduled concert at Jeddah World Fest,’ she said in a statement. 

‘While I want nothing more than to bring my show to fans in Saudi Arabia, after better educating myself on the issues, I believe it is important for me to make clear my support for the rights of women, the LGBTQ community and freedom of expression.’

Armie Hammer wrote on social media that attending the music festival and seeing Saudi men and women excited about it 'felt like a cultural shift' and 'truly special'

Armie Hammer wrote on social media that attending the music festival and seeing Saudi men and women excited about it ‘felt like a cultural shift’ and ‘truly special’

Model Halima Aden was pictured attending what appeared to be an organized event during the festival

Model Halima Aden was pictured attending what appeared to be an organized event during the festival

Sofia Richie, Mohammed Al Turki and Joan Smalls attend the MDL Beast Festival in Saudi Arabia

Sofia Richie, Mohammed Al Turki and Joan Smalls attend the MDL Beast Festival in Saudi Arabia

Ryan Phillippe

Wilmer Valderrama and Amanda Pacheco

Phillippe (left) and Wilmer Valderrama and Amanda Pacheco (right) were also pictured attending the festival. They also shared photos on social media of themselves touring the country

The music festival was aimed at polishing Saudi Arabia’s image abroad and appealing to the young.  

It is a staggering pivot from just three years ago, when religious police would storm restaurants playing music and harass women in malls for showing their face or wearing red nail polish.

Now, the kingdom has movie theaters and concerts. 

Women are allowed to drive and travel without male permission and they can sit with men at restaurants. 

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The kingdom began issuing tourist visas this year and female visitors are not required to wear the conservative black-flowing robe known as the abaya and headscarves in public.

While the social changes ushered in by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have been sweeping, so too is his crackdown on criticism and political expression. 

Alessandra Ambrosio was pictured posing at the music festival on Friday in Saudi Arabai

Alessandra Ambrosio was pictured posing at the music festival on Friday in Saudi Arabai

Nadine Leopold and Elsa Hosk cozied up as they posed for the cameras at the MDL Beast Festival

Nadine Leopold and Elsa Hosk cozied up as they posed for the cameras at the MDL Beast Festival

The prince has overseen the country’s war in Yemen, which has led to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and the arrest of women’s rights activists, clerics and writers.

He has also drawn international condemnation for the killing of Saudi writer and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey.

Khashoggi was slaughtered by Saudi agents inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last year in an attack the CIA concluded was ordered by the crown prince.

Saudi Arabia on Monday sentenced five people to death and three more to jail over Khashoggi’s murder last year and said the killing was not premeditated – a verdict criticized by a UN investigator as a ‘mockery’ of justice. 

Former royal adviser Saud al-Qahtani – a close aide of the crown prince – was not charged. 

Khashoggi was a US resident and critic of the prince. He was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, where he had gone to obtain documents for his impending wedding. 

His body was reportedly dismembered and removed from the building and his remains have not been found.

Khashoggi’s murder caused a global uproar, tarnishing the crown prince’s image. The CIA and some Western governments have said they believe Prince Mohammed, also known as MbS, ordered the killing.

Saudi officials say he had no role. 

Donald Trump’s administration PRAISES Saudi Arabia for sentencing five to death over murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi but not charging de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman’s top aide 

Donald Trump’s administration praised Saudi Arabia after officials sentenced five people to death and three more to jail in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

‘This is an important step in holding those responsible for this terrible crime accountable, and we encourage Saudi Arabia to continue with a fair and transparent judicial process,’ a senior administration official told DailyMail.com.

But the two most senior Saudi officials implicated in Khashoggi’s death, including a former top adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who’s the de facto ruler of the country, were cleared of wrongdoing.

Additionally, the court ruled Khashoggi’s murder was not premeditated, which is the argument pushed by Prince Mohammed’s government.

The verdict raises questions as to whether the courts punished those that carried out the killing while shielding those who ordered Khashoggi’s death. A U.N. investigator of the journalist’s murder called the ruling a ‘mockery’ of justice.  

The kingdom continues to deny any involvement by Crown Prince Mohammed and his top aides. The CIA concluded MBS, the crown prince is known by his initials, ordered Khashoggi’s killing.

Donald Trump's administration praised Saudi Arabia after officials sentenced five people to death in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Donald Trump’s administration praised Saudi Arabia after officials sentenced five people to death in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Khashoggi, a Saudi national who lived in Virginia, was last seen on Oct. 2, 2018, when he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain the necessary documents to marry his Turkish fiance. He was never seen again.

The columnist for the Washington Post was a prominent critic of the crown prince.

Investigators found he was killed by a team of officials who flew in from Saudi Arabia.

His body was dismembered and his remains have never been found.

In addition to the five death sentences ordered by the Saudi court, three other people were found guilty of covering up the crime and were sentenced to a combined 24 years in prison, according to a statement read by the Saudi attorney general’s office on state TV. 

However, Saudi court dismissed charges against three others on trial, finding them not guilty, Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor and spokesman Shalaan al-Shalaan said.

One of those three was Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to MBS who was reportedly involved with attempts to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia.

In all, 11 people were put on trial in secretive proceedings in the capital Riyadh. The trial was closed to the public and independent media outlets. None of the defendants’ names have been released.

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the country, claimed no involvement with Khashoggi's murder but the CIA found he gave the order

Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of the country, claimed no involvement with Khashoggi’s murder but the CIA found he gave the order

Executions in the kingdom are carried out by beheading, sometimes in public. All the verdicts can be appealed.

Monday’s ruling contradicts a United Nations-led investigation and Agnes Callamard, who investigated Khashoggi’s killing for the U.N., called the verdict a ‘mockery’ of justice.

‘The hit-men are guilty, sentenced to death. The masterminds not only walk free, they have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial. That is the antithesis of Justice. It is a mockery,’ Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, wrote on Twitter.

The U.N. investigation found that a team of 15 Saudi agents had flown to Turkey to meet Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

They included a forensic doctor, intelligence and security officers and individuals who worked for the crown prince’s office, according to Callamard’s independent investigation, whose report came out in February.

Turkish officials allege Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw. 

The U.N.-led inquiry found the evidence pointed to ‘a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated’ by Saudi officials.

The 101-page report included details from the audio Turkish authorities shared with Callamard. She reported hearing Saudi agents waiting for Khashoggi to arrive and one of them asking how they would carry out the body.

Last moments: Khashoggi was last seen on October 2 last year entering the consulate in Istanbul where he was accosted and killed by Saudi agents

Last moments: Khashoggi was last seen on October 2 last year entering the consulate in Istanbul where he was accosted and killed by Saudi agents 

Not to worry, the doctor said. ‘Joints will be separated. It is not a problem,’ he said in the audio. ‘If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished. We will wrap each of them.’

Saudi Arabia initially offered shifting accounts about Khashoggi’s disappearance. As international pressure mounted because of the Turkish leaks, the kingdom eventually settled on the explanation that he was killed by rogue officials in a brawl.

The kingdom said its team had flow in bring Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia alive.

Shalaan, the Saudi prosecutor, said that when the Saudi team that entered the consulate saw it would not be possible to transfer Khashoggi to a safe place to continue negotiating, they decided to kill him.

‘It was agreed, in consultation between the head of the negotiating team and the culprits, to kill Jamal Khashoggi inside the consulate,’ Shalaan said Monday in response to questions from journalists.

‘The investigation showed that the killing was not premeditated … The decision was taken at the spur of the moment,’ Shalaan claimed.

He called it a ‘snap decision.’

The journalist’s murder caused a global uproar, tarnishing the crown prince’s image.

Saudi officials say MBS had no role, although, in September, the crown prince, for the first time, indicated some personal accountability, saying ‘it happened under my watch’.

‘I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia,’ he told CBS’ ’60 Minutes’ in September.

But he reiterated that he had no knowledge of the operation, saying he could not keep such close track of the country’s millions of employees.

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