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Saudi Newcastle takeover: Khashoggi’s fiancee writes emotional plea to fans

Hatice Cengiz calls on football club's supporters to 'stand tall together' and reject the Mohammed bin Salman-led deal
Hatice Cengiz urged Newcastle fans to reject the "offensive" Saudi takeover (AFP)

Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, has written an emotional plea to Newcastle United fans, urging them not to support a proposed Saudi takeover of their football club. 

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is on the verge of completing a $368m buyout, which would give it an 80 percent stake in the English Premier League team.  

“I know that many of you are tempted by [Mohammed bin Salman’s] offer to get out of the dire situation that has crippled your club for so many years. But the crown prince is accused of ordering Jamal’s murder,” Cengiz wrote in an open letter she shared on Twitter.

“All credible investigations have shown his responsibility. He has not been put on trial in his own country as he controls it with an iron fist.” 

Khashoggi, a columnist for Middle East Eye and the Washington Post, was brutally murdered and dismembered in Saudi Arabia's Istanbul consulate in October 2018. The United Nations and CIA have accused the crown prince of being directly involved in the killing. 

“My plea to you is to think whether accepting Mohammed bin Salman’s offer is really the right way out of the despair for your club and city. How can it be when your club will be controlled by someone who should be tried for murder, as we would rightly expect for anyone accused of killing a loved one,” Cengiz said. 

“They are making this move not to help you and not with your best interests in mind, but solely to serve themselves.”

'We should not let the beautiful game of football be shamed by those who are not passionate for it, and who only seek to use it to hide their shocking deeds'

- Hatice Cengiz

Since news of the takeover emerged, Newcastle United fans have celebrated by changing their Twitter profiles to include Saudi flags and pictures of the crown prince. Some fans even went as far as creating football chants joking about the death of Khashoggi

Cengiz asked supporters to consider a range of human rights abuses carried out by Saudi Arabia.

“It is widely reported that they have imprisoned and tortured several opponents and women’s rights campaigners, killed and maimed countless civilians in the Yemen war, and even persecuted the crown prince’s own family members,” she said.

In recent weeks, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have both expressed concern about Riyadh using the Newcastle United takeover as a PR tool to "sports-wash" its human rights record. 

“We should not let the beautiful game of football be shamed by those who are not passionate for it, and who only seek to use it to hide their shocking deeds,” Cengiz concluded.

“Now is the moment to stand tall together for the game, your club, your city and your country in order to slam shut the door on this offensive deal.”

On Tuesday, a new legal document filed with the English Premier League (EPL) raised fresh questions about the takeover. It alleged a clear link between the Saudi government and the pirate broadcast of Qatar's BeIN Sports' output, including Premier League games. 

BeIN Sports, a key broadcast partner of the EPL has accused Saudi Arabia of masterminding the pirate broadcast of its output as part of a diplomatic dispute between Doha and Riyadh. Saudi Arabia denies the claims.

Saud al-Qahtani, one of the crown prince's closest allies, is thought to have masterminded both Khashoggi's assassination and the pirating of BeIN Sports' matches.