Sir Richard Branson’s ‘PR advice’ to Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman weeks after Khashoggi murder
- Sir Richard Branson advised Mohammed bin Salman to free female activists
- Billionaire said crown prince should pardon female prisoners after murder
- Jamal Khashoggi has not been seen since he went to Saudi consulate in Istanbul
- Businessman said freeing prisoners would ‘change people’s view’ of kingdom
- Talks over Virgin Galactic Saudi funding suspended in wake of Khashoggi killing
Billionaire businessman Sir Richard Branson advised the Saudi crown prince to release female activists in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Virgin founder told Mohammed bin Salman that if he pardoned imprisoned women’s rights activists it would help the oil-rich kingdom be seen in a better light after the killing of the Washington Post columnist in the country’s consulate.
In the days flowing Khashoggi’s disappearance after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, Branson announced he was pulling out of the Davos in the Dessert conference later that month.
Google Cloud CEO Diane Greene, Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber, a company in which Saudi Arabia has invested billions of dollars, JPMorgan Chase & Co chief executive Jamie Dimon and Ford Motor Company executive chairman, Bill Ford, also pulled out of the high-profile meeting.
Branson also announced he was suspending talks with Saudi Arabia over $1billion investment in his Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit space ventures amid claims that the kingdom murdered Khashoggi.
Sir Richard Branson advised Mohammed bin Salman to free female activists in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi
Talks over Saudi investment in Virgin Galactic were suspended amid claims the regime ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi
‘What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi Government.
‘We have asked for more information from the authorities in Saudi and to clarify their position in relation to Mr Khashoggi’, Branson said in a statement on October 11.
But days later he text Mohammed bin Salman to advise him how he could ‘change people’s view’ of Saudi Arabia, the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to the newspaper, the text read: ‘If you were to pardon these women and a number of men too, it would show the world the Government is truly moving into the 21stCentury.
‘It won’t change what happened in Turkey but it would go a long way to start and change people’s view.’
The crown prince was said to have politely thanked Branson for his advice and told him he is still welcome in the country.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received a text from Branson after the billionaire businessman halted talks over Saudi investment in Virgin Galactic
Publicly bin Salman denied involvement in the murder and called it a ‘heinous crime’, but the CIA has since concluded bin Salman was likely to have ordered a hit squad to carry out the killing.
Khashoggi visited the Saudi consulate to collect marriage papers and has not been seen since.
His Turkish fiance, Hatice Cengiz, was waiting for him outside.
Audio recordings captured the horrific sounds of Khashoggi’s body being dismembered with a saw – while his alleged killers were told to listen to music to block out the noise, according to documents released by the Turkish authorities.
The Saudi government last year announced its intention to invest $1billion into Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit, which are under the umbrella of Branson’s Virgin Group.
Dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi has not been seen since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2
Last month human rights groups claimed Saudi activists, including a number of women, who have been imprisoned for the last six months, have been tortured and sexually harassed in jail.
Several activists being detained in Saudi Arabia’s Dhahban Prison, have reportedly faced sexual harassment, torture and ill-treatment during interrogation, Amnesty International said.
Those currently detained in the country’s infamous Dhahban Prison include Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada, Mohammad al-Rabe’a and Dr Ibrahim al-Modeimigh.