After the Khashoggi verdict: time to move on

Ghanem Nuseibeh

Published: Updated:

The murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is one of the most heinous crimes of our generation. The perpetrators are monsters. Those who defend them are also devoid of humanity.

The people far and away the most affected by this crime were his family, represented by his sons. They have had to endure over a year of gruesome details of how their father was brutally murdered. I have the greatest sympathy for what they have endured. They need closure. Salah Khashoggi wrote soon after the Saudi judiciary published its verdict that the family of Jamal were satisfied with the verdict. This was soon echoed by his other son who retweeted Salah’s tweet. Salah’s tweet was as close as one can expect to a plea to everyone, whether supporters or critics of the Saudi government, to move on. The family of Jamal Khashoggi deserve to be left in peace. They knew what their father wanted. He did not hide his criticism of the Saudi leadership, but at the same time, abided by Saudi laws.

I am personally ideologically opposed to capital punishment but Mr Khashoggi wasn’t. This is one of the many things I disagreed with Jamal Khashoggi about. Mr Khashoggi’s killers were convicted and sentenced to death. Mr Khashoggi’s family supported the verdict and no one can claim moral superiority to them. Nor can anyone claim a closer bond to Jamal Khashoggi than his own flesh and blood. That is where we are now.

Just as I feel strong empathy towards Mr Khashoggi’s family and respect their desire to find closure, I equally feel disgust at the way in which some people continue to use his death for political reasons to undermine the country that he loved and where his family continues to live. They are using this human tragedy for political gain.

The judiciary has said its word. Rejecting the verdict on political grounds sets an extremely dangerous precedent and it has only one purpose: to undermine the stability of the country and the reforms that are taking place in the Kingdom.

Jamal Khashoggi’s family, who were continuously updated with details of the investigation and sentencing, are unequivocally satisfied with what they saw. The Saudi judiciary does not answer to foreign political powers or pundits, who for whatever ideological or other reasons, wish to see the case remain open.

There is no doubt that Saudi Arabia suffered immense reputational damage from the fallout of the murder. The country is undergoing unprecedented reforms at the heart of which is essentially the normalisation of the country where personal freedoms are no longer subject to the religious establishment. The Saudi government is working hard to open the country to foreign visitors, both tourists and investors. This is not only a long overdue development for the average Saudi, but is also very important for regional and global stability.

Attempts to undermine Saudi Arabia by keeping the Khashoggi case open with amateurish analysis more reminiscent of a public relations exercise than of sound judicial commentary, will only serve the aims of religious extremists who are opposed to the reforms. Whether intentionally or not, those attacking the judiciary after the verdict will use any other reason to continue their ideologically-motivated attacks against the Kingdom. Jamal Khashoggi was an excuse, and now that the verdict has been issued, the sentences handed down and his own family has accepted it, that excuse is no longer valid.

The most fitting tribute to Jamal Khashoggi’s memory would be to respect what his family wants: to accept the verdict and move on.


Ghanem Nuseibeh is the Founder of Cornerstone Global Associates, a strategy consultancy based in London. He is also the Chairman of the UK-based non-profit Muslims Against Anti-Semitism. He tweets at @gnuseibeh

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