Money versus morals: 100 days since Jamal Khashoggi’s killing

  • 11 Jan 2019

Lawmakers, journalists and rights activists are pressuring governments to hold the leaders of Saudi Arabia accountable as Riyadh flexes its financial muscle.

While US lawmakers and activists have constantly demanded action on Jamal Khashoggi's killing, the government has looked the other way. ( AFP )

Saudi Arabia has plenty of oil and a lot of money. It often flashes its wealth. The latest show of it came on Thursday when the world marked 100 days since Saudi journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi’s killing. 

In Washington, Istanbul and elsewhere, politicians, journalists and human rights activists gathered to light candles and make speeches to commemorate the slain journalist, who was killed on the orders of the kingdom’s senior officials in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. 

Back in Saudi Arabia, the kingdom chose to talk about its wealth, with the country's finance ministry announcing that long-term debt sold in bonds worth $7.5 billion was oversubscribed by international investors by more than three times. 

That was the first time Saudi Arabia had raised money in foreign markets since Khashoggi’s assassination in October. And most of the bonds were bought by US investors. 

But the world hasn’t forgotten Khashoggi. A hundreds days after the Saudi journalist was killed, at what many say was the behest of the kingdom’s rulers, people are still seeking justice and keeping up the pressure.

“There are some in our country who were saying that commercial interests should override our values and how we speak out upon those values,” said Nancy Pelosi, the US House of Representatives speaker, at a ceremony in Washington. 

“And if we decide that commercial interests should override the statements that we make and the actions that we take, we must admit that we have no moral authority to talk about moral atrocities anymore, anytime.”

Saudi Arabia admitted the Riyadh critic was killed at its consulate in Istanbul. Earlier, Riyadh had denied any knowledge of Khashoggi's fate, saying he left the building alive, a claim Turkey refuted from the outset.(Getty Images)

The people who had gathered at the US Capital in Khashoggi’s honor said they serve as a reminder that his sacrifice will not go to waste. 

The UK-based rights group, Amnesty International, has mounted renewed efforts to press the United Nations to conduct an independent investigation into who ordered Khashoggi’s assassination in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul. 

A well-known journalist, Khashoggi wrote critical columns about the kingdom’s rulers, the country’s foreign policy and the domestic crackdown ordered by Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. 

Since then, Riyadh has tried to shield the crown prince by arresting and charging senior officials who, it says, had gone rogue and acted on their own. But no one is buying that story - especially not US lawmakers. 

Last month, American senators said that they were convinced that the hit was ordered by bin Salman, who effectively runs day-to-day affairs in the oil-rich country. 

Their assertion came after a classified briefing they had received from the Central Investigation Agency (CIA), which had collected evidence on how the journalist was killed when he went to consulate for some paperwork. 

While only rough details about the CIA investigation had come out, now the spy agency is under pressure from activist groups to divulge more details.

The US-based Open Society Justice Initiative has filed a lawsuit in a New York court demanding the CIA releases records, which are essential to see if Washington has done enough to hold the real perpetrators of Khashoggi's killing accountable. 

“After more than three months, the circumstances surrounding the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi remain unclear,” James A. Goldston, Executive Director of the human rights group, said in a statement. 

“Only by making available what the federal government knows can prosecutors and judges — not just in the US, but around the world where jurisdiction may lie—be able to bring the perpetrators to justice.”