London – The fiancee of the murdered Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi has demanded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman reveal the whereabouts of his body.
In an emotional plea, Hatice Cengiz told an audience in London: “I believe that the Saudi regime knows where his body is: they should answer my demand, for this is not only the demand of a fiancee but a human and Islamic demand.”
In a moving tribute to Khashoggi – who was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 – Cengiz called on the international community to ensure there is no cover-up of his murder.
Speaking for the first time outside Turkey, she said: “I want justice to be served – not only for those who murdered my beloved Jamal, but for those who organised it and gave the order for it. These questions are not just my questions: they are being asked by millions.
“I want the role of the political leadership in this brutal killing to be brought to light.”
Speaker after speaker at the homage organised by Middle East Monitor and the Al Sharq Forum to commemorate The Washington Post columnist placed the blame for his death squarely on the shoulders of bin Salman.
Cengiz said her fiancee’s death had left a “void” in her life and had turned him into a “martyr” for the cause of democracy in Saudi Arabia. The writer was highly critical of the Saudi leadership and left his homeland for the United States last year after growing fearful for his safety.
A Turkish academic who became engaged to marry Khashoggi four months ago, Cengiz was left waiting for her fiancee outside the consulate where he was murdered by what she branded a “death squad”.
“If only I knew what would happen, I would have entered the consulate myself… If only I knew that there were bloodthirsty, evil people waiting inside the consulate for my Jamal, I would have done all I could to prevent him from entering.”
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She also attacked US President Donald Trump who has limited his criticism of the Saudi leader, a close ally, and stressed the importance to the American economy of arms sales to the country.
“I am deeply grateful for the solidarity of people all over the world,” Cengiz said. “I am, however, disappointed in the actions of the leadership in many countries, particularly in the US.
“President Trump should help reveal the truth and ensure justice be served. He should not pave the way for a cover-up of my fiancee’s murder. Let’s not let money taint our conscience and compromise our values.”
Wadah Khanfar, former director general of Al Jazeera, said bin Salman, 33, “shot himself in the foot” with this latest act of terror.
“He underestimated the amount of anger this would cause across the world,” Khanfar told Al Jazeera.
“This is a tipping point that will undermine his government and his future. No respected politician in the world will ever want to have a photo opportunity alongside him again.”
Several speakers indicated the young Saudi leader’s disastrous policies – including the brutal war he is waging in neighbouring Yemen – had now turned him into a liability for his country by alienating its international allies.
Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch, delivered a heartfelt tribute to Khashoggi, whom she described as “the Saudi man who would not bow down”.
She said the murder had revealed the crown prince “not only to be a reckless, sadistic murderer … but an unreliable and treacherous ally”.
“No foreign leader who is not enslaved to Saudi Arabia financially would dare to be seen standing next to him,” Whitson said. “He is now exposed as the greatest liability for Saudi Arabia in its short history.”
British parliamentarian Crispin Blunt said the murder was “a very profound moment” that would silence Saudi society completely unless the government changed direction in order to “do penance for this appalling atrocity”.
He called on the regime to begin by ensuring freedom of expression, ending the death penalty, and halting efforts to brand all political opponents as “terrorists”.
David Hearst, editor in chief of Middle East Eye, told the audience bin Salman had become a “toxic brand” whose actions would have important diplomatic implications for Saudi Arabia.
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“Jamal’s murder has shown us that our closest allies are not just unstable – but a source of instability.”
Killing the messenger
Beyond its geopolitical ripple effect, the Khashoggi killing has also begun to influence global debates about the increasing risks faced by journalists today.
In a veiled reference to US President Donald Trump – who has been vocal in his attacks on the press, Michelle Stanistreet, head of the UK’s National Union of Journalists, described a “shocking level of state-sponsored impunity” for those who attack media workers.
Stanistreet said: “The global journalistic community today faces an international climate that is ever more febrile and increasingly fraught with danger: an American president who has called journalists the ‘enemies of the people’, a Saudi regime that believes the world will suspend disbelief and allow itself to be hoodwinked as it repeatedly changes its story [on Khashoggi], and a Turkish president speaking out against a terrible act – while journalists languish in Turkish prisons.”