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Iyad el-Baghdadi faces threat from Saudi Arabia

CIA warns Khashoggi associates about threats from Saudi Arabia

Friday 10 May 2019, by siawi3


Saudi Arabia

Iyad el-Baghdadi faces threat from Saudi Arabia

Activist says Norwegian authorities put him into protective custody because ’the Saudis have a crosshairs on me’.

8 May 2019

Iyad el-Baghdadi said Norwegian long authorities have told him as long as he remains in Oslo he is ’reasonably safe’ [Twitter]

Seven months after the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, another Arab dissident has been threatened by the government in Riyadh, the activist said.

Iyad el-Baghdadi said Norwegian authorities took him to a secure location from his home in Oslo because of a threat against him.

“The way I understood it was, the Saudis have a crosshairs on me, but there is no idea of what they are going to do,” el-Baghdadi told the UK’s Guardian newspaper in an interview published on Tuesday.

The paper reported that the Norwegian officials received information about the threat from the CIA.

El-Baghdadi told Al Jazeera that Norwegian officials asked him not to speak about certain specific details relating to the incident.

“When they took me to a safe location in Oslo, the nature of the threat was not clear. Did the threat get to the stage where it amounted to a plan to endanger me directly?” he said to Al Jazeera on Tuesday.

( 2. I was not placed under protection for a long time. I was away for 2-3 hours, and the authorities have told me that so long I’m in Oslo I’m reasonably safe. They said I will be provided with police protection soon.
— İyad el-Baghdadi

The vocal pro-democracy activist and strong critic of Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), said the incident happened on April 25 and that he was in the safe location for 2-3 hours.

“The authorities have told me that so long I’m in Oslo I’m reasonably safe,” he wrote on Twitter on Tuesday.

“I had plans to travel elsewhere but they asked that I cancel these,” he told Al Jazeera.

“A big part of my work these past two years was focused on the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, especially after the murder of my friend Jamal Khashoggi,” el-Baghdadi said.

Worried for his family

He said there are “six or seven other topics that I am working on and that Norwegian authorities and I have agreed may have been the reason behind my targeting”.

He told Al Jazeera he was worried about his family who are in Malaysia. He said he can not travel to see them or get in touch with them directly.

El-Baghdadi has been a prominent online presence since the Arab Spring, and his English-language tweets about human rights in the Middle East have found a wide audience.

He seemed to take the threat against him in stride.

“Thanks for your concern, everyone. If they don’t want to kill me, then I’m not doing my job,” he tweeted on Tuesday.

( Thanks for your concern, everyone. If they don’t want to kill me, then I’m not doing my job.
— İyad el-Baghdadi

El-Baghdadi was granted asylum in Norway four years ago after his online activism and criticism prompted his expulsion without charge from the United Arab Emirates, where he was a resident.

He’s president and cofounder of the Kawaakibi Foundation, which supports individual rights and democracy through its podcast and The Arab Tyrant Manual platforms.

In the immediate wake of the killing of Khashoggi, el-Baghdadi was among a number of activists who worked around the clock to try to figure out what happened to the Saudi writer, by trawling through online and other clues.

He warned on Twitter that the danger to dissidents would broaden if Crown Prince Mohammed were not held accountable for Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“If they get away with kidnapping the next step will be assassinations in your capitals, and I’m not joking even a little bit.”



Mohammed bin Salman

CIA warns Khashoggi associates about threats from Saudi Arabia

Foreign security services warn pro-democracy advocates of potential retaliation by Saudi agents.

12 hours ago

Human rights campaigner Iyad el-Baghdadi was warned of a possible threat from Saudi Arabia [Lefteris Karagiannopoulos/Reuters]
Human rights campaigner Iyad el-Baghdadi was warned of a possible threat from Saudi Arabia [Lefteris Karagiannopoulos/Reuters]

The CIA and foreign security services have warned friends and colleagues of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi that their continuation of pro-democracy work has made them targets of potential retaliation from Saudi Arabia.

Democracy advocates Iyad el-Baghdadi in Oslo, Norway, Omar Abdulaziz of Montreal, Canada, and a person in the United States who asked not to be named were working closely with Khashoggi on politically sensitive media and human rights projects at the time of his killing, US publication TIME reported on Thursday.

The three advocates have received security briefings in recent weeks, warning them of a possible threat from Saudi Arabia, the report said.

El-Baghdadi - a Palestinian human rights campaigner and writer who won prominence during the 2011 Arab uprisings and has written critically of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) - said Norwegian security services took him to a secure location on April 25 and told him of the possible threat.

“Once I was there and settled down, they told me that ... they have received a tip from a partner intelligence agency indicating that I’ve been the target of a threat,” he told Reuters News Agency.
’Crosshairs on my back’

El-Baghdadi said he spent three hours at the April meeting discussing with members of Norway’s PST security service why he might be at risk.

“They did not describe the nature of the threat except to say that I had crosshairs on my back, that I shouldn’t travel and that I should warn my family immediately,” el-Baghdadi told TIME.

“But my entire conversation with the PST from beginning to end was about the Saudis.”

( 1. It is not clear at this time what the nature of the threat was, and there’s no indication that it had translated into a specific plot. As I said earlier: They seem to have me in their cross-hairs but it’s not clear what they want to do.
— İyad el-Baghdadi

The Saudi embassy in Oslo was not immediately available for comment. Saudi Arabia’s government communications office did not respond to a request for comment.

El-Baghdadi said the Norwegian authorities did not name the partner agency, but from the context of the conversation, he inferred they were referring to the US CIA.

Video here The Jamal Khashoggi murder reconstructed (3:44)

The Norwegian justice ministry, which is in charge of the security services, the Norwegian security police, and the foreign ministry all declined to comment.

The CIA also declined to comment when contacted by Reuters.

Friends and associates of Saudi dissident Abdulaziz, who has permanent resident status in Canada, confirmed to TIME that Canadian security officials visited him at his Montreal home recently and provided a similar threat briefing, prompting him to go into hiding for several days.

Saudi Arabia has come under increasing global scrutiny over its human rights record since the grisly murder of Khashoggi last year inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate and the detention of about a dozen women’s rights activists.

A bipartisan chorus of US legislators has called on the White House to harden its stance towards Saudi Arabia after Khashoggi, a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed, was killed by Saudi agents in a move widely seen as an attempt to stifle dissent.

A CIA assessment blamed MBS for ordering the killing, which Saudi officials deny. Khashoggi’s body has never been found.

Video here: Will there ne justice for Khashoggi