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UK: Activists hold vigil marking five years since Khashoggi’s murder

Campaigners and activists held a vigil outside Saudi embassy in London, saying that nothing has changed since brutal murder of journalist
Activists and campaigners stand outside Saudi embassy in London with posters of Jamal Khashoggi (MEE/Nadda Osman)
By Nadda Osman in London

Activists and human rights campaigners gathered outside Saudi Arabia's embassy in London on a rainy Monday evening to mark five years since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

The activists said that five years following the killing of Khashoggi, after he was lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and dismembered, no one has been held accountable and they fear that any critic could have a similar fate. 

Salman al-Khaldi, a Kuwaiti activist who has previously spoken out about the murder of Khashoggi and has faced repercussions, said that they were harassed by members of the Saudi embassy for holding the candlelight vigil.

“We have been here since 2pm and the people in the embassy have told us that we have no right to stand here. They called the police and yet we are still here,” he told Middle East Eye. 

Khashoggi, a former columnist for Middle East Eye and The Washington Post, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018, in an assassination that American intelligence services believe was approved by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, though he denies this.

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“Saudi Arabia is using its tools to dissidents freedom of expression. We are here peacefully but the embassy has said that we are attacking them, in order to get rid of us,” he added.

According to Khaldi, Saudi Arabia harasses anyone who speaks out about Khashoggi.

“Today, I have a five-year sentence against me in Kuwait just because I have spoken out about Jamal Khashoggi and I have been banned from entering Saudi Arabia for 25 years,” he said. “If we are silent about Khashoggi, we will be next.”

Some of the activists chanted "down down bin Salman" while standing outside the embassy, as security guards lingered around the gates of the premises. 

Daniel Gorman, the director of English Pen, an organisation that campaigns on behalf of writers and other literary professionals who are unjustly persecuted in violation of their right to freedom of expression, was also at the vigil.

“Justice has not been served for Khashoggi, so we continue to call for a full investigation. Given that it has been five years since his brutal murder in the embassy in Istanbul, it is very sad that we have to be here today, but we will continue,” he told Middle East Eye.

“According to independent organisations, the instructions come from the top, so Mohammed Bin Salman should be held accountable…we call for all political prisoners to be released,” he added. 

Mina Thabet said that such vigils are important to shed light on oppression in Saudi Arabia and to build momentum towards holding Saudi officials accountable.

“Today, we are here saying that no matter how long it takes, there are still people advocating for peace and justice,” he said at the vigil.

“People should be able to practise their freedom of expression, journalists shouldn't be killed. There must be accountability for these crimes. Mohammed bin Salman has not been held accountable yet and there are direct links between him and the killing of Khashoggi,” he added.

International community

The CIA previously concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. 

The US agency said it had collected multiple sources of intelligence indicating the crown prince issued the instructions for the killing.  

The New York Times (NYT) said the CIA had come to the conclusion based on the crown prince's control of Saudi Arabia, and reinforced its assessment "with two sets of crucial communications: intercepts of the crown prince's calls in the days before the killing, and calls by the kill team to a senior aide to the crown prince".

Thabet reaffirmed, that on the basis of the evidence compiled by international organisations, the crown prince and his aides need to be held responsible. 

“Evidence shows, and it is a known fact, that bin Salman ordered the killing and he should be isolated and singled out from the international community for it. He should not be meeting with international leaders or be at international forums,” Thabet said.

After initially being met with cold treatment by the international community in the aftermath of Khashoggi's killing, the crown prince has gradually been welcomed back.

Earlier this year, it was revealed he would be visiting London later this year, in what would mark his first trip to the UK since the murder in 2018.

After a four-year enforced hiatus, he made his first trip to Europe since the murder in July 2022, visiting Greece and France. 

Last month, Mohammed bin Salman also visited Paris and met with French President Emmanuel Macron as he continued to seek to restore his image in the western world. 

“The international community should have some decency and shouldn’t give criminals their support," Thabet said.

Huda al-Amri, an exiled Saudi activist who now resides in the UK, says the vigil is an important step in calling for justice. 

“If we don’t call for justice now, our time will come too,” she said. 

“Bin Salman is a murderer and this is not just about Khashoggi. He was just one of many. There were many before him and there have been many after him. People need to raise their voices for the sake of justice,” she added.

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