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UK's Natural History Museum defends decision to host Saudi embassy event despite Khashoggi disappearance Open in fullscreen

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UK's Natural History Museum defends decision to host Saudi embassy event despite Khashoggi disappearance

The Natural History Museum said it will not be cancelling the Saudi embassy event [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 October, 2018

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A top London museum has come under pressure to cancel an event booked by the Saudi embassy.

London's Natural History Museum has defended its decision to host an event by the Saudi embassy in London on Thursday, amid rising concern about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October and has not been seen since. 

Media reports suggest the journalist was murdered by Saudi agents, due to his criticism of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

London's Natural History Museum said on Thursday said that the embassy had made the booking two months ago and emphasised its commitment to commercial bookings.

"Enabling commercial events to take place outside of public opening hours in our iconic spaces brings the museum an important source of external funding, which allows us to maintain our position as a world-class scientific research centre and visitor attraction," the statement said. 

The October 11 event is hosted by Saudi Arabia's
ambassador to London [Screenshot]
"We hold a wide variety of commercial events and it is made clear to any host that doing so is not an endorsement of their product, service or views".

Attention was drawn to the event, which is hosted by Saudi ambassador to London Mohammed bin Nawwaf bin Abdulaziz, when activists accused the museum of accepting "blood money" referring to the kingdom's alleged assassination of Khashoggi and role in the Yemen war, which has left at least 10,000 Yemenis dead and millions more suffering from food shortages.

The Campaign Against Arms Trade's media coordinator, Andrew Smith, was quoted by The Guardian as saying that the museum "should not be hosting a regime which has been accused of killing journalists and is inflicting a humanitarian catastrophe on the people of Yemen".

Polly Truscott, Amnesty International UK's foreign affairs expert, warned that the museum should be "extremely wary of allowing its facilities to be used in any way that might appear to dignify human rights violations".

Global pressure on Saudi Arabia has grown in the days since Khashoggi's disappearance, with Turkish sources alleging that the journalist was killed by a 15-man group sent from Saudi Arabia.

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.

The case has also caused the New York Times to withdraw from an upcoming conference in Riyadh and a former US energy secretary to suspend his role in a multi-billion dollar Saudi project.

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