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Khashoggi fiancée hits out at Saudi-led takeover of Newcastle United

The fiancée of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Friday criticised the takeover of Newcastle United by a Saudi-led consortium, accusing the English Premier League football club of only thinking of money.

Hatice Cengiz, who was set to marry Khashoggi when he was killed in 2018 inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul, said the £300 million ($408 million) takeover deal was “heartbreaking” for her and she was “very disappointed”.

“It seems like they (Newcastle fans) don’t care about what happened to Jamal, they just care about the financial future,” Cengiz told BBC radio.

“I want to remind them that there is something more important than money, that there is something more important than the financial situation of this club.

“You should send the message to them that they cannot buy any English team because of this crime—it is the clear message that every English person should send them.”

Western intelligence agencies accuse Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of authorising the murder of the Washington Post contributor, who was a US resident.

Bin Salman also heads the Gulf kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, which was the driving force behind the Newcastle deal.

The Saudis have strongly rejected reports of the prince’s involvement in Khashoggi’s killing.

Britain, a major arms exporter to Saudi, imposed sanctions on 20 Saudis suspected of involvement in Khashoggi’s murder.

But the takeover of the club was welcomed with scenes of jubilation outside Newcastle’s St James’ Park ground as fans let off flares.

The morning after the announcement, workers swept up bottles and debris from the party the night before, and fans dismissed the human rights concerns.

“They have got human rights issues. Everyone knows that. But we need this. We need it so bad,” Justin Cowan, a retired warehouse, told AFP.

“The club, the city, we’ve been put down loads of times. We’re a sleeping giant and it’s about time. It’s lovely for the club and for the region. Everyone’s happy,” he added.

‘Blood on its hands’

The arrival of Saudi money at the struggling club in northeast England has been met with warnings from experts and human rights groups. 

Madawi Al-Rasheed, a visiting professor at the Middle East Centre of the London School of Economics, said bin Salman would without doubt be involved in decisions at the club.

“It is very, very unrealistic to say that there is a separation between public and private funds in Saudi Arabia,” she told Channel 4 News on Thursday night.

The academic also said the prince would look to use the Premier League to rehabilitate his and the Gulf kingdom’s image after abuses such as the Khashoggi killing.

“Britain could become a platform for the dictators of this world,” Al-Rasheed said. “It’s a major decision that has to be discussed at a very high level in government in this country. 

“Saudi Arabia is a country where there is no accountability. It is basically the rule of one man. I see here the crown jewels are being sold to a crown with blood on its hands.”

Amnesty International has condemned the Premier League’s decision to give the green light to the takeover, accusing Saudi Arabia of using its involvement in English football to “sportswash” its human rights record.

The Premier League had said it would consider warnings from Cengiz after the Saudi takeover was first floated. 

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