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Jeremy Hunt DENIES ‘prior knowledge’ of Saudi plot against murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi but dodges questions on whether UK intelligence had advance warning
- Journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed after entering Saudi consulate in Turkey
- Jeremy Hunt denies any ‘prior knowledge’ but refuse to discuss what spies knew
- Reports that GCHQ picked up rumours of a plot but did not raise the alert
Jeremy Hunt today insisted he personally had ‘no prior knowledge’ of Saudi plotting against murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi – but dodged questions over whether British intelligence had any advance information.
Mr Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the crown prince, was killed in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
The Saudi authorities initially denied any involvement but have since conceded the murder was organised by ‘rogue agents’.
Reports over the weekend suggested that GCHQ had intercepted information about a potential plot against Mr Khashoggi three weeks before the killing.
MI6 warned Saudi Arabia to cancel the mission, which was thought at the time to be an abduction, but did not alert other intelligence agencies, according to the Sunday Express.
Jeremy Hunt (pictured in the Commons today) told MPs he personally had ‘no prior knowledge’ of Saudi plotting against murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi
Mr Hunt was grilled in the Commons about the situation today, but refused to speculate on what was known by British intelligence.
Labour MP Gill Furniss said: ‘Media reports have surfaced this weekend suggesting UK intelligence services were aware of the Saudi plan to abduct the journalist Jamal Khashoggi and take him back to Riyadh, and of the deployment of the hit squad to Istanbul for that purpose.
‘Can I give the Foreign Secretary the opportunity to tell the House today that those reports are categorically untrue?’
Mr Hunt responded: ‘I hope she will understand that I don’t comment on intelligence matters, but if it reassures her I had absolutely no prior knowledge myself of the terrible Khashoggi murder and was as shocked as I think everyone else.’
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Shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry ditched her pre-written questions to pour more pressure on Mr Hunt to clarify his position.
She said: ‘If the allegations in this weekend’s report are true they are extremely serious, it was reported in early September that our intelligence services became aware of the Saudi plan to abduct Jamal Khashoggi and on October 1 they knew that a Saudi team had been dispatched to Istanbul for that purpose.
‘Now I hear what the Foreign Secretary has said, that he didn’t know, but did the intelligence services know and has he asked them?’
Mr Hunt responded: ‘I have to repeat what I said to her and I’m sure she will understand that it isn’t possible for a Foreign Secretary or indeed any minister to comment on intelligence matters for very obvious reasons.
Mr Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the Saudi crown prince, was killed in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2
‘I didn’t know about this attack, it’s very important that she understands that and this House understands that, and we are as shocked as everyone else about what happened.’
Mrs Thornberry told Mr Hunt he could not ‘hide behind a blanket refusal to discuss intelligence matters’ and asked him to attend a behind closed-doors session of the Commons intelligence and security committee to reveal what was known.
Mr Hunt told MPs that if he was invited to attend the committee then he would ‘of course consider that invitation’.
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