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The sordid Jamal Khashoggi affair

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Members of Human Rights Association (IHD) hold portraits of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi reading “Jamal Khashoggi is missing since October 2” during a demonstration<br />outside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on October 9, 2018. – Veteran Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who has been critical of the government, went missing a week ago after visiting the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. Turkish officials believe he was murdered inside the consulate. Riyadh vehemently denies the claim, saying he left the compound on his own. (Photo by BULENT KILIC / AFP)

The entire world woke up on 2nd October to the rude and shocking news that Saudi-born journalist Jamal Khashoggi had ‘disappeared’ while on a visit to the Saudi Consulate in Ankara Turkey.

Khashoggi had been an outspoken critic of the methods and excesses of the Saudi government under the de facto headship of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

From all indications an innocent journalist-citizen was murdered by security agents inside the Consulate of Saudi Arabia in another country to silence opposition.

In the words of Shakespeare in Hamlet, this is ‘Murder most foul, as in the best it is. But this most foul, strange and unnatural.’

The Saudi Kingdom has known no real peace since ailing King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud appointed his son bin Salman Crown Prince in 2017.

In an attempt to strengthen his hold on power, the Crown Prince has continued to take controversial steps against perceived enemies of the state.

In one fell swoop he ordered the arrests of about five hundred Saudi princes last year ostensibly in an anti-corruption drive.

Critics said then that it was carried out to consolidate his hold on power.

It was against this background of excessive and overzealous state actions that Jamal Khashoggi criticized Crown Prince bin Salman’s ‘impulsive behaviour in foreign policy’ and left the country in 2017 on voluntary exile.

Before the facts were made known, the Turkish government had been firm and vociferous in denouncing the hierarchy of the Saudi government for ‘killing Khashoggi and dismembering his body’ right inside the Consulate in Ankara, Turkey.

Indeed, they (Turkish authorities) had then announced to the entire world that the murder was recorded through a device.

Now the coast is clear as the Saudi authorities had confirmed that Khashoggi the journalist, a Saudi citizen died in the Consulate as Turkish authorities had claimed.

Before the confession, joint investigations were being carried out by Turkey and Saudi Arabia. There were reports of fresh painting inside the Consulate, which had suggested a cover-up of some sort.

The sordid affair has been a public relations tragedy for the Saudi government, which earlier denied the accusation of murder.

It first issued a statement saying that Khashoggi left the Consulate through the backdoor.

When that did not wash with the world, they modified their position somewhat and word was out that they were prepared to state that the journalist died ‘during an interrogation that went wrong.’ They appear to be holding on to that even after the great confession.

Most European countries, notably France, Germany and the United Kingdom had issued statements of concern calling for the truth to be established.

After pussyfooting over the matter for a few days on account of huge trade deals between America and Saudi Arabia, POTUS Donald Trump has warned that there would be serious consequences if it is established that Khashoggi was murdered in the Consulate.

The same Trump a strong ally of the Saudi monarchy on a deal with Iran, has been speaking in tongues about the same affair after confession that they knew about the mysterious death of the journalist.

Already some powerful potential partners such as JP Morgan CEO, heads of America’s top investment firms, Sir Richard Branson, top executives at Ford and MasterCard and Google have withdrawn from the big investment conference ‘Davos in the desert’ scheduled for last week of October.

This is as it should be. Any government that cannot respect the codes of engagement should be a pariah state.

What was Jamal Khashoggi’s offence? He practised the tenets and principles of ethical journalism as recognised and accepted by the entire world. He was former general manager and editor-in-chief of Al-Arab News Channel.

Khashoggi also worked as editor of the Saudi Arabian newspaper Al Watan. During his tenure the paper became an organ for progressives; a development which must have irked the deeply conservative country.

He wrote essays that were critical of the Saudi government, taking particular exception to the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen that continues to cost lives.

His column in The Washington Post gave him world visibility. For freely expressing his views as a journalist, the Saudi government marked him as an enemy.

The incident on October 2 was a culmination of the attempt by the government to stifle criticism.

How the scoundrels behind the dastardly act thought they could get away with this high-profile murder beats the imagination.

The Crown Prince should be told that the antiquated world of infantile dictatorship and lack of respect for human rights ended decades ago.

Governments, whether secular or otherwise are accountable to the people, whether at home or abroad.

It is an irony that a man who is Vice Custodian of two holy sites of a major religion can preside over the extermination of a man who stood for truth, justice and fairness.

The truth of what actually happened to Khashoggi must be established as quickly as possible.

There should be no hedging over it. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo seems to have listened to the tape during his visit to Turkey.

The UN Secretary General has also called for a speedy investigation and establishment of what happened to Khashoggi.

The entire world is watching the major actors whether they will make a mess of the tragedy and write the incident off as one of those incidents in the course of duties.

Any government that feels so affronted or threatened by the candid opinions expressed by men of the Fourth Estate of the Realm and sees the brutal annihilation of the messenger as an option is not fit to be accepted in the comity of nations.

The individuals behind this horrendous act, no matter how highly placed, should face international sanctions.

If confirmed to be state-sponsored the Saudi government will not take any action against any official.

They will simply try to ride the storm. But the outrage being expressed against the killing in the world should continue.

We expect all Saudi ambassadors across the world to be summoned and asked to explain what their home government is up to.

Nobody has the right to extra-judicially take the life of another in any circumstances.

The particularly gruesome method used by the executioners show that these are brutes and savages who ought to spend the rest of their days on earth behind iron bars.

The impunity of committing such an act on a foreign soil rankles to the depth of the soul.

The world must rise to the occasion and say no to this barbaric act once confirmed.

The message should be loud and clear: freedom of expression is a universal human right and nobody deserves punishment for exercising this freedom.

Journalist Khashoggi deserved a better fate for championing the truth, arguably the most powerful force on earth.


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