The fiancee of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has urged Newcastle United fans in an open letter to oppose a proposed Saudi takeover of the football club.
The call by Hatice Cengiz on Wednesday came as news circulated that an investment group majority funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which is headed by the kingdom’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), was on the verge of buying the club.
“I know that many of you are tempted by his [MBS’s] offer to get out of the dire situation that has crippled your club for so many years. But the crown prince is accused of ordering Jamal’s murder,” Cengiz wrote in the letter shared on Twitter.
“All credible investigations have shown his responsibility. He has not been put on trial in his own country as he controls it with an iron fist,” she added.
The more-than-$300m takeover would reportedly give the investment group an 80 percent stake in the English Premier League team.
A United Nations rights expert last year concluded that MBS should be investigated over the killing of Khashoggi, who was murdered and dismembered by Saudi agents at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. The CIA in the United States reportedly concluded that bin Salman ordered the operation to kill Khashoggi, a critic of the crown prince’s policies and a Washington Post columnist.
“My plea to you is to think [about] whether accepting Mohammed bin Salman’s offer is really the right way out of the despair for your club and city,” Cengiz wrote. “How can it be, when your club will be controlled by someone who should be tried for murder, as we would rightly expect for anyone accused of killing a loved one?”
“They are making this move not to help you and not with your best interests in mind,” she said, “but solely to serve themselves.”
“You as the loyal fans do have a big say in this,” wrote Cengiz. “I implore you all to unite to protect your beloved club and city from the Crown Prince and those around him.”
News of the possible takeover was received positively by some Newcastle United fans, several of whom changed their Twitter profiles to include Saudi flags and pictures of MBS.
In 2019, Newcastle United was rumoured to be on the brink of being bought by Abu Dhabi billionaire Sheikh Khaled bin Zayed Al Nehayan, but that deal did not proceed.