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Exiled Egyptian opposition leader expresses fear after Khashoggi disappearance

Ayman Nour says the alleged murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi makes him fearful for other critical voices
Egytian opposition politican Ayman Nour (L), flanked by Nobel Peace Prize laureate Yemeni Tawakkol Karman (R), speaks during a demonstration in front of the Saudi consulate (AFP)

Egyptian opposition politician Ayman Nour has expressed his concern for the safety of foreign dissidents in the wake of the alleged murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Nour told Middle East Eye on Wednesday that, in the wake of the disappearence of Khashoggi in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul, critical voices like Nour's - who also lives in Turkey - were at risk of being silenced.

"The feeling of being safe is a rare feeling for those who oppose these tyrannical regimes," he said.

"The assassination of Khashoggi is a symbolic assassination of the moderate opposition."

He said Khashoggi was his friend for 30 years and that his death caused him "personal pain".

"What happened to this respected and noble man, Jamal Khashoggi, is a crime of lowness, vulgar and treachery, and a crime against humanity, the right of the press, free of speech," he said.

"[It is] a crime that belongs to past dark centuries."

Nour has been the target of threats himself. He cited the example of an Egyptian TV programme that in September called for him and two other Egyptian opposition figures to be killed.

Speaking to the audience on the Al-Mihvar TV channel on 12 September, Mohammed Al-Baz said that former parliamentarian Nour, as well as journalists Mutez Matar and Muhammed Nasser, had taken an "enemy position" towards the Egyptian state and should be killed.

"If an Egyptian can reach Ayman Nour, Mutez Matar and Muhammad Nasser, let him kill all of them. Now you will say that I encourage others to kill. Oh, this encouragement to kill. Let someone kill if he can," he said.

"We have now reached a level of conflict with these people. They want to destroy the state."

Nour said he had lodged a complaint over the broadcast with the Attorney General's office, but no action has yet been taken.

"I have no thought of leaving Turkey, simply because I do not have a passport," he said. "This is my decision and my destiny.

"I wish Jamal would be safe ... and I wish the safety to all the liberals and dissidents in the world who deserve the protection of the conscience of the world, more than [they have] now."

'Ugly sorts of tyrannies'

A self-confessed "liberal", Nour previously founded the El-Ghad party in Egypt, but left following the 2013 coup. He has lived in Istanbul since 2015, along with many other Egyptian dissidents.

Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post who had been critical of his country's ruler, went missing after entering the Saudi consulate to retrieve personal paperwork on 2 October.

Turkish officials say they believe he was killed in the consulate, a claim Riyadh has dismissed as "baseless".

EXCLUSIVE: Jamal Khashoggi dragged from consulate office, killed and dismembered
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Saudi Arabia insists that he left less than an hour after arriving at the consulate. But the kingdom has shown no evidence of his departure from the building.

Khashoggi's fiancee, Cengiz, who was waiting outside, first raised alarm when he did not emerge from the building past its hours of operation.

Nour, along with a number of other activists, including Nobel Peace Prize laureate Yemeni Tawakkol Karman, demonstrated outside the Saudi consulate on Monday holding pictures of Khashoggi.

According to a Washington Post report on Tuesday, US intelligence officials intercepted communications from Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture Khashoggi. The officials wanted to bring him back to Saudi, the Post reported, citing an unidentified official familiar with the situation.

Trump not only sacrificed his personal reputation, but he sacrificed the reputation of the United States of America and the image of the country in the eyes of people around the world, he attached himself with those tyrants and in the Middle East

- Ayman Nour

The New York Times cited a Turkish official as saying a bone saw was used to dismember Khashoggi's body.

On Monday, US President Donald Trump said he was “concerned” about the reports of Khashoggi’s murder, following a much-derided period of silence from the White House.

Heather Nauert, a spokesperson for the US State Department, said on Tuesday that Trump plans to speak to the Saudis - whose crown prince, Mohammed Bin Salman Trump, is thought to be close to - about what happened.

Nour criticised Trump for his apparent willingness to ally with the "tyrannies" in the Middle East, a position he said damages the US's standing in the world.

"The leaders and presidents that belong to Trump’s sphere are the ugly sorts of tyrannies in the world, like Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, [Abu Dhabi crown prince] Mohammed Bin Zayed and Mohammed Bin Salman," he told MEE.

"Trump not only sacrificed his personal reputation, but he sacrificed the reputation of the United States of America and the image of the country in the eyes of people around the world, [when] he attached himself [to] those tyrants in the Middle East."

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