Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Saudis must not get away with murder

Editor's Viewpoint

The disappearance of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi may seem far away from our own daily concerns, but in a broad sense it affects all of us.

Khashoggi, who had inside knowledge about the darkness of the Saudi regime, was a columnist with The Washington Post. His death in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul has been a deeply-troubling episode that is posing questions for the West and its relationship with the kingdom.

The savage conduct of the Saudi authorities has been deeply disturbing, but hardly surprising. At first they insisted that Mr Khashoggi had left the consulate unharmed, but since then they have been shifting their story in the face of international pressure.

The Saudis are now offering a highly implausible version that the journalist died as the result of a fight, whereas the Turkish authorities are claiming that he was tortured and beheaded, and that his body was dismembered and smuggled out of the consulate.

The Turks are still searching for his remains and have promised to release the details of the entire horrific episode.

The Saudis' behaviour points to an over-arching arrogance where they believed they could literally get away with murder, in this case the death of a high-profile critic in one of their consulates.

This attitude is partly the result of past examples where the world at large, including leading European nations, turned a blind eye to the excesses of the Saudis on their own soil, and their involvement with the internal affairs of neighbouring states.

However, attitudes are changing in an era of State-sponsored executions, including the recent attempt by Russia to assasinate one of its enemies on British soil.

The reluctance, thus far, to react to Saudi excesses was because the West makes huge profits in selling arms to Saudi Arabia, and also the economic power of Riyadh, based on its huge reserves of oil.

In his chaotic and self-serving response, US President Trump has been quite explicit that any action against the Saudis will stop short of costing jobs, though this crisis is far from over.

The West, including Trump, must not shirk the task of holding the Saudis to account for the vile murder of Mr Khashoggi.

With other rogue states looking on, the free world must send out a clear message that this flagrant breach of international relations must not, and will not, be tolerated.

Belfast Telegraph

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