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Why UK’s invite to Saudi crown prince is controversial

Mohammed bin Salman has been an outcast on the world stage for half a decade but is now being rehabilitated by Western leaders – Rishi Sunak the latest among them.

Sources have told Sky News the crown prince has been invited to visit the UK and that the meeting will take place in the autumn.

But the Saudi Arabian leader has not acknowledged, far less atoned, for his role in the butchery of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Western intelligence has little doubt he was personally responsible.

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Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in 2018. Pic: AP

The US Department of National Intelligence concluded: “Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”

Lured to a Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, Mr Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered – it’s believed with a device that would give the Saudi prince the infamous nickname Mr Bone Saw.

He has denied the allegations and blamed the events on rogue agents.

Mr Khashoggi, whose body has never been found, was one of the most respected writers on Middle East affairs, a contributor to the Washington Post, charming and erudite to meet and highly regarded on both sides of the Atlantic.

And yet it now seems world leaders want to move on from his grisly murder, his alleged killer simply too powerful and economically important for Joe Biden and Mr Sunak to continue to ostracise him.

Rishi Sunak met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the G20 summit in Bali last November
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Rishi Sunak met Mohammed bin Salman at the G20 summit in Bali last November

Saudi Arabia has an appalling human rights record. It locks up people without fair trials for simply expressing political views or protesting. It sentences to death large numbers of people, some of them minors.

In March last year it killed 81 people in the largest mass execution in decades.

But Western leaders are falling over themselves to cosy up to its infamous leader.

Vladimir Putin was derided in 2018 for high-fiving the crown prince.

Last year it was Joe Biden fist-bumping him, despite an election campaign that promised to make him a pariah.

And now Rishi Sunak wants to roll out the red carpet, no longer willing to let a journalist’s murder and human rights abuses get in the way of a close and lucrative alliance.

Read more:
Blair’s institute continued to receive Saudi money after murder
How journalist met his death inside Saudi consulate

Mohammed bin Salman’s government is Britain’s biggest buyer of weapons exports.

And it is increasingly powerful diplomatically, trying to broker peace talks over Ukraine, for instance, albeit unsuccessfully.

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Saudi Arabia ‘sportswashing’ claims explained

The crown prince has also launched a multi-billion dollar campaign to lure some of the world’s biggest sporting championships to his country.

Western leaders welcome his help in providing intelligence to tackle the threat of Islamic terrorists, even if the same agencies use the same technology to build an oppressive surveillance state back home.

Mohammed bin Salman has huge ambitions for his country and needs to be rehabilitated on the world stage to fulfil them.

Western leaders seem increasingly ready to help him – even if that means letting him get away, quite literally, with alleged murder.

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