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Jamal Khashoggi: IMF chief pulls out of Saudi conference amid growing storm over journalist's disappearance

Several prominent business and technology leaders have already pulled out of 'Davos in the Desert' summit

Samuel Osborne
Wednesday 17 October 2018 11:53 BST
Jamal Khashoggi: Everything we know

The managing director of the International Monetary Fund has pulled out of a planned trip to the Middle East which included a stop in Saudi Arabia to attend an investment conference.

Christine Lagarde had said earlier that she was “horrified” by the disappearance of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but still intended to attend the investment conference in Riyadh.

She told reporters: ”I have to conduct the business of the IMF in all corners of the world and with many governments. When I visit a country I always speak my mind. You know me I always do.”

But on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the IMF said her trip to the Middle East “is being deferred” without giving a reason.

Several prominent business and technology leaders have already pulled out of the conference as pressure grows on the kingdom over the disappearance of Mr Khashoggi, who was a critic of the Saudi government.

Google, HSBC, Uber and JPMorgan are among those who have said they will not attend the Future Investment Initiative (FII) summit, which has been dubbed “Davos in the Desert”.

Mike Pompeo arrives in Saudi Arabia to discuss Jamal Khashoggi disappearance

It follows Turkish officials saying there is evidence Mr Khashoggi was killed and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

On Wednesday, a pro-government Turkish newspaper published a gruesome recounting of the alleged murder of the Saudi writer.

The report by Yeni Safak cited what it described as an audio recording of Mr Khashoggi’s slaying, which it said showed he was tortured.

Christine Lagarde has said she is ‘horrified’ by the disappearance of Jamal Khashoggi (AFP/Getty Images)

The newspaper said the Saudi consul general, Mohammed al-Otaibi, could be heard on the tape, telling those allegedly torturing Mr Khashoggi: “Do this outside; you’re going to get me in trouble.”

The newspaper said one of the Saudis torturing him then replied: “Shut up if you want to live when you return to [Saudi] Arabia.”

Turkey’s security services have used pro-government media to leak details of the investigation into Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance, heaping pressure on the kingdom.

Saudi Arabia has strongly denied the accusations, though US media has reported that they will acknowledge that Mr Khashoggi was killed in a botched interrogation.

Donald Trump says Jamal Khashoggi could have been work of 'rogue killers'

Donald Trump, who had earlier warned of “severe punishment” if the kingdom was found culpable for Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance, has criticised the allegations against Saudi Arabia and compared them to the accusations of sexual assault made during the confirmation of the latest Supreme Court justice, Brett Kavanaugh.

“Here we go again with you’re guilty until proven innocent,” the US president told the Associated Press in an interview.

Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state, met the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on Wednesday, following talks with Saudi Arabia’s king and crown prince about the disappearance.

Police plan to search the Saudi consul general’s home, as well as some of the country’s diplomatic vehicles, Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, has said.

Leaked surveillance video shows diplomatic cars travelling to the consul general’s home shortly after Mr Khashoggi went into the consulate.

Police put up barricades around the consul’s official residence Tuesday night but the search did not happen overnight for reasons which were not immediately clear.

Additional reporting by agencies

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