Saudi crown prince hosts Israeli, American evangelicals in Jeddah

Saudi crown prince hosts Israeli, American evangelicals in Jeddah
A delegation of Israeli, American Christian evangelicals met with Saudi Arabia's crown prince ahead of the 18th September 11 anniversary on Tuesday.
3 min read
11 September, 2019
MbS has attempted to rebrand Saudi Arabia's image despite multiple controversies [Getty]
Saudi Arabia's crown prince hosted a delegation of American Christian evangelicals on Tuesday, state media said, the latest such visit as the conservative Muslim kingdom seeks to repair its image of religious intolerance.

The visit comes on the eve of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, in which 15 of the hijackers who crashed jetliners into the twin towers in New York were identified as Saudi nationals.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman met the delegation, led by Israeli-American author Joel Rosenberg, at his palace in the western city of Jeddah, the official Saudi Press Agency said.

"Honoured to be back in kingdom of Saudi Arabia for (the second) time in less than a year," Rosenberg said on Twitter.

"We met (with) his royal highness the crown prince (and) other senior officials to discuss terrorism, peace, religious freedom and human rights."

The delegation also met Prince Khalid bin Salman, the kingdom's deputy defence minister, and secretary-general of the Muslim World League Mohammed al-Issa, SPA reported.

The crown prince hosted a similar delegation led by Rosenberg that travelled last November to Saudi Arabia, which is home to Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina and where the practice of other religions is banned.

Saudi leaders have courted a flurry of representatives of various Christian traditions in recent months. 

In April 2018, Saudi Arabia hosted French Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who headed the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Tauran, who died in July 2018, was seen as an energetic promoter of dialogue between the Catholic Church and Islam.

And in November 2017, the head of Lebanon's Maronite church, Beshara Rai, paid an official visit to Saudi Arabia where he met King Salman and Prince Mohammed.

Prince Mohammed, the heir to the Saudi throne, has sought to project a moderate image of his austere kingdom, often associated in the West with jihadist ideology.

Read more: 'Give me headphones and coffee and I'll chop his body up': Khashoggi's murderer

But the self-styled reformer has faced global criticism for the kingdom's poor human rights record including the jailing of political activists and critics.

Most recently, the controversial crown prince has been criticised for the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last year, which according to CIA and UN reports, was orchestrated by the prince himself.

Saudi Arabia has denied any involvement by the crown prince but its own investigation acknowledged the operation was planned by two of the prince's top aides.

Gruesome details

This week, a Turkish newspaper released new recordings detailing the moments running up to the death of the Washington Post Saudi journalist, providing yet more evidence that top-level officials had plotted his vicious murder.

Just 12 minutes before Khashoggi entered the building on October 2 last year, Saudi intelligence officer Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb was discussing what to do with his body after the murder with head of the Saudi Scientific Council of Forensics Salah Mohammed Tubaigy and a forensic scientist.

“Is it possible to put the body in a bag?", Mutreb asked Tubaigy at 1:02pm.

“No, it is too heavy and too long. I have worked continuously in handling the bodies. I know how to cut it well. I have never worked on a living body, but I can handle it easily”, Tubaigy replied, noting he usually dons headphones and drinks coffee prior to dismembering corpses.

“After I tear up his body, I’ll wrap the parts in a bag, put it in suitcases and take it out.”

Just before Khashoggi’s arrival, Mutreb asked if “the sacrificial animal has yet arrived”. At 1:14pm, a member of the execution team informed the Saudi official that Khashoggi had arrived in the embassy.

Moments later, the recordings revealed Khashoggi's last word: “I have asthma. Please, you’ll strangle me”, shortly before the sounds of the saw dismembering him was heard.

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