News about the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has ricocheted around the world for nearly three weeks. On Sunday the Saudi foreign minister confirmed his murder. This latest admission, after weeks of denial from the Saudi government and contradicting reports from Turkey, has led world leaders to boycott Davos in the Desert, a high-profile conference in Riyadh.
The conference is officially called the Future Investment Initiative and has had thousands of attendees.
Conference organisers have pulled the list of 2018 speakers from its website.
IMF chief withdraws from Saudi conference
Leaders who now say they will not attend the event include Christine Lagarde, director of the International Monetary Fund, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and UK International Trade Secretary Liam Fox.
The New York Times, the Financial Times and CNN have also withdrawn partnership at the event, reports Sky News.
Khashoggi: “We Saudis deserve more”
Khashoggi had spoken out against Saudi policies and the country’s crown prince, writing in the Washington Post in November 2017: “Mohammed bin Salman is acting like Putin. He is imposing very selective justice. The crackdown on even the most constructive criticism — the demand for complete loyalty with a significant ‘or else’ — remains a serious challenge to the crown prince’s desire to be seen as a modern, enlightened leader.
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“We Saudis deserve more than the spectacle of royals and officials interred at the Ritz Carlton.”
He was last seen on CCTV going into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and his fiancée reported his disappearance when he did not return, said a Turkish news agency.
Claims of a Saudi conspiracy
The Saudis have changed their stories several times around the journalist’s death.
Initially, the official line was denial, amid rumours of footage of an attack transferred by an Apple watch and Turkey claiming a Saudi conspiracy and cover-up.
On Sunday the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia called Khashoggi’s death a murder but denied it had been carried out by order of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
He told Fox News the attack was a “rogue operation” and a “tremendous mistake”.
He said: “We are determined to find out all the facts and we are determined to punish those who are responsible for this murder,”
“The individuals who did this did this outside the scope of their authority. There obviously was a tremendous mistake made, and what compounded the mistake was the attempt to try to cover up.”
The political response to the murder
As well as those withdrawing from Davos in the Desert, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she will not continue arms exports to Saudi Arabia.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has threatened to cancel a multi-billion dollar Saudi defence contract.
The UK and France have expressed shock at Khashoggi’s death and demanded an explanation.
US President Donald Trump, who previously said he believed the story coming from Saudi, said on Saturday: “Obviously there’s been deception and there have been lies.”
More leaders who will not attend Davos in the Desert
Others who have said they will not be attending Davos in the Desert are French finance minister Bruno Le Maire, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson and Uber chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi.