The Future Investment Initiative forms part of the Saudi royal family’s Vision 2030 plan, which aims to encourage foreign investment and break the kingdom’s dependency on oil sales.
Visitors to the Initiative’s website on Monday however were greeted by a picture of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman holding a curved sword over the head of Khashoggi, as a masked figure in the background waves the black flag of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorist organization.
“For the sake of security for children worldwide, we urge all countries to put sanction (sic) on the Saudi regime. The regime, aligned with the United States, must be kept responsible for its barbaric and inhuman action, such as killing its own citizen Jamal Khashoggi and thousands of innocent people in Yemen,” read text under the picture.
Shortly after the hack was discovered, the website went offline.
After Khashoggi failed to leave the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, Turkish authorities claimed to have video and audio evidence that the journalist - a Washington Post columnist and critic of the Saudi royal family - had been brutally tortured, killed, and dismembered inside the building.
As the news broke, speakers, companies, politicians and news agencies began withdrawing from the Future Investment Initiative conference. JP MOrgan CEO Jamie Dimon, HSBC CEO John Flint, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde are among dozens of headline names skipping the conference - which until now had been dubbed ‘Davos in the Desert.’
On Monday, Siemens CEO Joe Kaeser became the latest corporate head to back out.
“Siemens has been a reliable partner to Saudi Arabia for decades and supports its great Vision 2030. But for now, the truth must be found and justice must be served,” Kaeser said in a statement on Monday.
Saudi officials have yet to substantiate their claim that Khashoggi died in a “fist fight,” or to provide details as to where the journalist’s body is. Turkey is conducting a separate investigation into the case, and maintains that Khashoggi was murdered by a Saudi assassination squad.
US President Donald Trump said on Saturday that he is not yet “satisfied” with Riyadh’s version of events, but will not pull out of lucrative arms deals with the Saudis.
“We have $450 billion, $110 billion of which is a military order,” he told reporters in Nevada. “I think it's over a million jobs – that is not helpful for us to cancel an order like that. But there are other things which could be done, including sanctions,” Trump noted.
Across the Atlantic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced on Monday that her government would freeze its arms deals with Saudi Arabia in light of “current circumstances,” and called on Germany’s allies to do the same.
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