November 25, 2018 11:20 am

Canada and the West caving to Saudi ‘blackmail’ with refusal to act in Khashoggi murder: journalist

WATCH: When President Trump calls the press as the enemy, journalists in the Middle East face increased dangers

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Western countries, including Canada, are caving to what one Middle Eastern journalist calls economic “blackmail” by refusing to act against Saudi Arabia for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by a hit squad with ties to the Crown Prince.

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Ayman Mhanna, a Lebanese journalist who is also director of the Beirut-based Skeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom, told the West Block’s Mercedes Stephenson that rulers in the Middle East are conditioned to decades of Western inaction when it comes to repercussions for killing journalists and that if rulers like those in Saudi Arabia knew they would be punished, Khashoggi might not have been murdered.

READ MORE: Trump thanks Saudi Arabia for low oil prices amid backlash over Khashoggi response

“If crimes against journalists were properly persecuted, properly investigated and if the perpetrators were ever held accountable for their wrongdoings, things would have been different,” he said.

“Unfortunately, rulers in the Middle East, whether it be Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, Egypt, all of these countries are using some form of blackmail. The world today wants stability and the Middle East has always been one of the most regions. So in order to preserve stability, authorities in the West prefer not to rock the boat.”

WATCH BELOW: Saudi crown prince goes on tour of Arab states amid Khashoggi storm

Khashoggi was a journalist for the Washington Post with Saudi citizenship but U.S. residency.

He had gone to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on Oct. 2, 2018, to get the paperwork he was told he needed in order to marry his Turkish fiance.

He never came out.

READ MORE: CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s killing: reports

Recordings from inside the consulate have since been shared by Turkish authorities with Western intelligence leaders, including the director of Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, who travelled to Turkey to hear them and then brief Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Those recordings reportedly indicate Khashoggi was suffocated before being dismembered and decapitated by 15 members of a Saudi hit squad, including men who were known to be close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

His body has not been found.

WATCH BELOW: Trump ‘hates’ Khashoggi killing, but calls Saudi Arabia ‘important ally’

On Nov. 16, American media reported the CIA has concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of Khashogghi.

Despite that, U.S. President Donald Trump has said he will not take any action against the Crown Prince.

Instead, the American administration sanctioned 17 Saudi officials.

Canada has not done even that, despite having legislation to sanction foreign officials who violate human rights.

READ MORE: Canada ‘actively considering’ sanctions like U.S.’s against 17 Saudis in Khashoggi case

While Trudeau and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland have so far called for more thorough investigations into the murder and said those responsible need to be held accountable, they have yet to point the finger directly at Saudi Arabia or take any concrete action against the kingdom.

Mhanna said that’s because they are worried about economic consequences.

READ MORE: How Saudi Arabia changed its tone on Jamal Khashoggi’s killing

“The Saudis can use the economy as a blackmail tool,” he said, noting similar pressure tactics around the migration issue have been used by the Turkish government to avoid punishment for their human rights abuses.

“It’s being used in a very nasty way to tell the West: don’t truly try to hold us accountable, don’t try to investigate, don’t try to push hard. Otherwise, we’ll open the migration wave, otherwise we can impose sanctions on your economic interests, otherwise we can let some of the more radical Islamist groups operate more freely.”

While the Liberals have said they are freezing new arms export permits to Saudi Arabia, they are not doing anything to stop the sale of armoured vehicles to the kingdom under a $15-billion deal inked under the previous government but approved under theirs.

Trudeau has claimed cancelling the deal would leave Canadian taxpayers on the hook for a billion dollars.

But the deal is subject to such tight confidentiality provisions that it has been impossible to verify that assertion or even the terms of the deal.

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

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