Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi whereabouts have sparked an international furore among journalists and international rights campaigners in the US, Europe and the Middle East. The 56 year old journalist – a Saudi journalist, Washington Post columnist, author and the former general manager and editor-in-chief of Al Arab News Channel – was internationally respected for his contributions to Al Watan for becoming a platform for Saudi progressives. He disappeared mysteriously sometime after 2 pm on the 2nd October 2018 and allegations have been made that he was murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in a plot masterminded by Saud intelligence services. He was last seen when he visited the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to collect a document. Turkish intelligence service corroborated that Mr Khashoggi went to the consulate to obtain a document to confirm that he had divorced his ex-wife, so that he could marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice, who went with him to the building and waited outside, but did not see him leave. She is alleged to have reported that he was “stressed and sad” that he was forced to go to the building. Hatice said he left the phone with her and told her to call an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he did not return. She also said she waited for him outside the consulate from about 13:00 (10:00 GMT) until after midnight and did not see him leave. She returned when the consulate reopened on Wednesday the following morning.
Turkish intelligence services theorised that within two hours of his arrival, Mr. Khashoggi was killed by a team of Saudi agents, who dismembered his body with a bone saw they’d brought for the purpose. A Turkish news organization, Sabah, published images of 15 men that Turkish officials have identified as Saudi operatives who flew to Istanbul. Meanwhile, Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, have insisted that Mr. Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after he arrived, but no evidence has materialized to support that claim. Turkish Officials claimed that Khashoggi was killed on order of Saudi Leadership. The Turkish authorities in Istanbul have asserted that they are in possession of audio and video evidence that supports that the journalist was murdered by Saudi agents inside the consulate according to the New York Times and Washington Post. The New York Times also reported last Tuesday that one of the suspects identified by Turkey in the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was a frequent companion of the kingdom’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Another suspect is alleged to be an autopsy expert, Salah al-Tubaigy, who the Times said identified himself on his Twitter account as the head of the Saudi Scientific Council of Forensics.
Mr Khashoggi was previous editor of the al-Watan newspaper and an ephemeral Saudi TV news channel, and for years was close to the Saudi royal family. He has also served as an adviser to senior Saudi officials. Following the arrest of several of his friends, his column was cancelled by the al-Hayat newspaper and he was allegedly cautioned to stop tweeting. Mr Khashoggi thereafter left Saudi Arabia for the US, from where he wrote opinion pieces for the Washington Post and continued to appear on Arab and Western TV channels criticising the Saudi regime for human rights violation. It is not known whether or not if US intelligence may have known about a Saudi plot to capture Khashoggi prior to his disappearance. Khashoggi, a conspicuous Saudi journalist, has been in self-imposed exile for a year after leaving Saudi Arabia under what he described as a fear of arrest; his columns that appeared in The Washington Post and elsewhere have infuriated the ruling Saudi monarchy. In particular because of his denunciation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the powerful son of King Salman. In a specular turn of events yesterday Saudi Arabia Public prosecutor has said Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the country’s consulate in Istanbul after a fight broke out. This is after nearly three weeks of denial that they did not know anything about the journalist’s disappearance. Meanwhile news from Saudi Arabia has also surfaced, purporting that eighteen Saudis are said to have been arrested so far in connection with the journalist’s death. In addition top intelligence official, Ahmed El Assiri, has been sacked, as well as royal court adviser Saud Al Qahtani who is close to the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
US President Donald Trump said he found the Saudi explanation “credible” and a White House statement described the murder as a “tragic incident” leading critics to believe that The US president is softening the way for a grand appeasement of the Saudi regime for the sake of lucrative arms deals.
A week ago, The White House was forced by the press to criticise Saudi Arabia after a period of muted responses to Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance. Donald Trump, in a press interview at the White House, has guardedly threatened the Saudi Arabia with “severe punishment” if Khashoggi, who has been critical of Bin Salman, has been killed. However, many sceptics view the US threat as synthetic, as not even 9/11 affected the relationship between the US and the Saudi’s. Furthermore, the huge arms sails order valued at US billions and their Middle -East geo-political strategic alliance make their relationship an inseparable tag team in the face of continued souring Iran/ US relationship in the Gulf.
The US and the UK have long been criticised by Human Rights Activists for selling billions of arms to Saudi Arabia despite its atrocious Human Rights record. In 2017, Human Rights Watch reported that Saudi Arabia carried out 146 executions, 59 for non-violent drug crimes. Additionally, A Saudi-led coalition continued an airstrike campaign against Houthi forces in Yemen that included the use of banned cluster munitions and apparently unlawful strikes that killed hundreds of civilians.
Yet, US officials on both sides of the political divide have cosied up with the questionable House of Saudi. Kingston-mouth is aware for example that in the past the Clinton Foundation has accepted at least $10 million from the Saudi government for its global anti-poverty work, which raised questions of possible influence during Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. We expect that despite President Trumps dubious threat to the Saudis, normal diplomatic relations will ensue. In 2017, while on a State visit to Saudi Arabia during a ceremony at the grand Saudi Royal Court, the king placed the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud, the nation’s highest civilian honour, around Mr Trump’s neck. On the same visit, after signing billions of dollars of arms deals, the President and his cabinet were seen with the House of Saud officials performing a cringe worthy sword dance celebrating the economic romance between their respective countries.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was appointed Crown Prince in June 2017 following his father’s decision to remove Muhammad bin Nayef from all positions, making Mohammed bin Salman heir apparent to the throne. Since then he has been busy marketing himself to word leaders and western media operatives as a reformer. However, it has long been suspected by respected intelligence source in Europe and North America that he has a dark side to his rise to power in Saudi Arabia. As defence minister Of Saudi Arabia, he is presiding over a war in Yemen riddled with war crime and human rights atrocities against the civilian population of that country. According to Amnesty International, in May of this year he has ordered the arrest of several women’s rights activists, who are still being held without trial. In a show of strength he has imprisoned businessmen and members of royal family in ‘corruption crackdown’ at the Ritz Carlton in Riyadh this year as part of what the crown prince described as a ‘crackdown on corruption’.
Last week US senators sparked an investigation in the Saudi role in Khashoggi’s disappearance, which could trigger sanctions. The UN has called for an investigation in the matter. Similarly, the United Nations special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression called for an investigation into the journalist’s disappearance, citing that along with allegations of Russian spies being accused of poisoning is a worrying trend.
According to official UK sources, Sergei Skripal, a former Russian military officer and double agent for the UK’s intelligence services and his daughter Yulia Skripal were poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent A-234, in Salisbury, England on the 4th March 2018. On 26 September 2018, investigative website Bellingcat published a statement that it had positively identified the men as Russian spies. The report alleged that President Putin knew them personally and that the assassination had been ordered “at the highest level”. Russia has been sanctioned by the UK, USA and the EU over the matter. It is expected that for this incident Saudi Arabia will be treated differently to the US- as is too often the case.
The days ahead will be interesting, as Saudi Arabia’s reputation is questioned by a curious international media who have organised demonstrations in London, New York and Paris over the matter. Surely, the Saudi’s government’s reliability as a partner of the West will be tested in the days ahead. Call us cynics, but Kingston- mouth find it hard to believe that Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest buyer of American defence hardware and a key partner of Presidents Trump plans to take Iran down and to forge an Israeli-Arab alliance, will be held accountable for this alleged murder.
This article was written by Donovan Reynolds CEO and edited by Ann Smith Managing editor of Kingstonmouth.com. Donovan Reynolds is an Independent blogger and Human Right’s Activist of Jamaican descent and a legal Academic who has an interest in Human Rights, Culture and International Development issues. Readers of this article are welcome to provide feedback at the space provided at the end of this article at firstname.lastname@example.org useful commentary made on our Facebook and Kingsonmouth@twitter pages.