Former US Energy Secretary suspends Saudi mega-city role over Khashoggi disappearance

Former US Energy Secretary suspends Saudi mega-city role over Khashoggi disappearance
Ernest Moniz, former US Energy Secretary, has suspended his role on the board of a multi-billion dollar Saudi project until further details about Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance emerge.
2 min read
11 October, 2018
Ernest Moniz announced the suspension on Wednesday [Getty]

US nuclear physicist Ernest Moniz, who served as Energy Secretary under Barack Obama, has suspended his role on the board of Saudi Arabia's NEOM mega city project over the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The move comes amid speculation that Khashoggi, who vanished during a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October, was assassinated on the orders of Riyadh.

"Given current events, I am suspending my participation on the NEOM board," Moniz said in a statement on Wednesday.
He added that the length of the suspension "will depend on learning all the facts" about Khashoggi's disappearance.

US President Donald Trump earlier this week urged Riyadh to provide further details on Khashoggi's visit to the consulate, while American lawmakers on Wednesday signed a letter demanding a human rights probe into the case.

On Wednesday, the New York Times pulled out of a Riyadh conference that intends to explore the different avenues Saudi Arabia can upscale its economic development.

US President Donald Trump concerned over missing journalist

The withdrawal of the Times, which has in the past been lambasted for "whitewashing" Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's human rights record, reflected the impact of the Khashoggi case on Saudi Arabia's already-tarnished reputation under Crown Prince Mohammed.

Moniz was named on Tuesday among 18 people on the advisory board of the $500 billion NEOM project.

The project, which is planned for completion by 2025, is part of Prince Mohammed's ambitious Vision 2030 plan, which seeks to transform the kingdom's oil-dependent economy.

At the same time, the 33-year-old heir to the Saudi throne has led a far-reaching crackdown on dissent and opponents since coming to power, arresting prominent public figures, businessmen and family members.