Khashoggi fiancee calls for halt to Saudi takeover of Newcastle United
The fiancee of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi has asked the English Premier League (EPL) to stop the $368m takeover of Newcastle United Football Club by a Saudi Arabian sovereign fund.
Hatice Cengiz's lawyer, Rodney Dixon, sent a letter to the league in his client's name saying any deal would tarnish the reputation of English football and make it complicit in the cover-up of Khashoggi's death.
Khashoggi, a Saudi columnist for Middle East Eye and the Washington Post, went missing after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018.
After initially saying he had left the consulate alive, weeks later, the Saudi administration admitted he was killed there, blaming a rogue group of Saudi operatives.
The US Central Intelligence Agency has said that it believes Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman directed Khashoggi’s murder.
The takeover of Newcastle is being planned by a consortium largely financed by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, which is chaired by the crown prince.
In her letter, which she shared on Twitter, Cengiz wrote: "The Premier League should not allow someone like Mohammed bin Salman, who has yet to face any accountability for the murder of my late fiancé, to be so involved in sports in the UK.
"Doing otherwise will greatly stain the reputation of the Premiere League and the UK.
"Football cannot be allowed to be part of this cover-up.”
Cengiz also questioned whether the takeover of a majority stake in Newcastle was compatible with the EPL’s charter.
The charter prohibits a club from being controlled by an individual who has engaged in conduct that would be “an offence” if it had occurred in the UK.
Last week, MEE reported that the takeover looked set to go ahead because EPL rules prohibit minor criminal offenders from ownership, but do not require any scrutiny of those accused of being war criminals, human rights abusers or murderers.
Since the crown prince led a coalition that intervened in Yemen’s civil war in March 2015, Saudi forces have been accused by a United Nations human rights panel of committing war crimes – as have all other parties to the conflict.
Saudi forces have bombed schools, mosques, hospitals and markets, according to the UN and human rights groups.
Broadcaster calls for probe
Qatar's BeIN Sports, a key broadcast partner of the EPL, has also called on club bosses to probe the Newcastle bid over piracy allegations.
BeIN Sports accuses Saudi Arabia of masterminding the pirate broadcast of BeIN output, including EPL games, as part of a diplomatic dispute between Doha and Riyadh. Saudi Arabia denies the claims.
In a letter last week to top-flight English clubs, BeIN urged them to put pressure on league officials to investigate whether Saudi "directors, officers and other representatives" would be fit and proper to own Newcastle.
"My request is purely based on the Saudi Arabia government's role in the past and continuing theft of the commercial interests of your club, the Premier League, all its broadcast partners and football in general - which, I think you would agree, simply cannot go ignored," wrote BeIN Media chief executive Yousef al-Obaidly.
"It is no exaggeration to say that the future economic model of football is at stake."
Since becoming de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, serious human rights abuses have continued unabated under bin Salman.
Muslim scholars have been executed, women’s rights activists have been detained and allegedly tortured and freedom of expression, association and belief continue to be denied.
Human rights organisations have described the Newcastle bid as a “sportswashing” operation to launder the Saudi government’s reputation.
In Cengiz's letter to EPL chief executive, Richard Masters, Dixon said there were “no limits” to the exploits of Bin Salman and his government.
In a separate statement on Tuesday, Cengiz said any deal by Saudi-controlled funds to buy Newcastle was a “desperate attempt to save [bin Salman’s] reputation”.
“I trust the Premier League and British authorities value their own principles and reputation above this transparent attempt at sportswashing,” she added.