October 26, 2018 6:00 am
Updated: October 26, 2018 1:44 pm

Jamal Khashoggi praised Canada for ‘raising the flag’ on Saudi human rights abuses

WATCH: Khashoggi called Canada, Saudi Arabia human rights spat 'unneeded' in Global News interview


Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi praised Canada for “raising the flag” on human rights in an interview with Global News’ Jeff Semple just months before he was killed.

Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the Saudi royal family, was killed inside the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Officials have admitted it was a “premeditated” attack.

Story continues below

The journalist spoke with Global News in two interviews — one in June and one in August — months before he was murdered.

Read more on that June 5 interview here: Jamal Khashoggi said he fled Saudi Arabia to ‘enjoy life’ in U.S. 

On Aug. 6, he spoke about a growing diplomatic spat between Canada and the Kingdom, which began when Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland called for the release of human rights activists jailed in Saudi Arabia.

“It is good that the Canadians are raising the flag among Western countries to raise the issue of human rights abuse throughout the Middle East,” he told Semple during a Skype interview.

WATCH: Khashoggi said Saudi activists, ‘martyrs’ felt government ‘intimidation’ to ‘go quiet’

Khashoggi noted that he understands why Saudi officials are upset with “Canadian intervention” — but he said the Saudis could have handled the situation differently.

“This confrontation with Canada is totally unnecessary,” he said.

“We could have handled it through diplomatic channels. Saudi Arabians can argue that Canada did intervene in a Saudi matter, but why should we take it to a higher level?”

The diplomatic rift boiled over in the summer when Saudi Arabia took several actions over a single tweet sent by Freeland.

The Saudi foreign ministry reacted with a series of angry tweets, slamming Canada’s “negative and surprising attitude” and “blatant interference” in its internal affairs.

The country kicked out the Canadian ambassador, announced plans to pull out thousands of students and medical patients from Canada and suspended Saudi state airline flights to Toronto.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia admits Jamal Khashoggi murder was ‘premeditated’

In the Skype interview, Khashoggi cautioned Saudi Arabia on alienation from other countries.

“Saudi Arabia needs friends. We are in a war in Yemen, in a confrontation with Iran, so we need friends like Canada, Europe,” he said.

“Saudi Arabia, as much as it needs the United States, it does need Canada, it does need Europe and vice versa.”

Khashoggi noted that Canada’s criticism is needed in the Arab world, as several countries grapple with unrest and violence.

WATCH: Khashoggi eerily foreshadows murder in Global News interview

“The Arab world makes up five per cent of the world population, but we produce 50 per cent of the world’s refugees,” he said. “More attention should be given to the Arab world and the human rights abuse that is taking place every day in many countries in the Arab world.”

The journalist also spoke of Samar Badawi, one of the jailed activists who has family living in Canada.

He said the Kingdom and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman did not explain why she was arrested — and it’s a fate many activists in the country have feared.

READ MORE: Saudi Arabia-Canada spat — here’s everything to know about the feud

“All activists in Saudi Arabia don’t speak now to foreign journalists, don’t meet among themselves. They’ve all taken a very low profile,” he said.

“Sometimes, I myself, even though I’m in Washington, I go quiet because there is so much intimidation around me.”

In the June interview with Semple, Khashoggi expressed similar fears of consequences for speaking out against the Saudi royal family.

WATCH: Khashoggi describes living under Saudi crown prince’s ‘chauvinist’ rule

Khashoggi said Saudi Arabia’s increasing attempt to muzzle those who speak out against the government was the reason he left the country and came to live in Washington.

“I left because, whatever narrow space I had, was getting narrower. I began to feel the pressure. So I just decided to leave before it is too late,” he said.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Report an error


Want to discuss? Please read our Commenting Policy first.