The Prime Minister has said the claim that journalist Jamal Khashoggi “died in a fight” at the Saudi consulate in Turkish capital Istanbul “does not amount to a credible explanation”.
Theresa May made the statement during Prime Minister’s Questions today.
US President Donald Trump has also denounced Saudi Arabia’s response to the death of Washington Post contributor Khashoggi, who disappeared on 2 October, as “one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups”.
It comes after the kingdom’s foreign minister said on Monday that Khashoggi’s death had been a “grave mistake” and that his alleged killers were part of a “rogue operation” not sanctioned by the kingdom.
Saudi officials had initially claimed he left the consulate alive. It has said 18 suspects are currently in custody.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said yesterday that Khashoggi’s death was a “barbaric assassination” that had been planned days in advance and was “obviously a political crime”.
Turkey claims to have an audio recording proving Khashoggi was tortured and killed in the consulate but has yet to make this public. It claims a team of Saudi men were responsible and that Khashoggi was dismembered.
Surveillance footage emerged this week showing another man dressed in Khashoggi‘s clothes and glasses and wearing a false beard leave the Saudi consulate in Istanbul after he was allegedly killed.
At Prime Minister’s Questions this morning Theresa May was pushed for “decisive action” by SNP MP Ian Blackford, who said: “Words of condemnation will not do” in responding to Khashoggi’s death.
He asked May to commit to ending the sale of arms to Saudia Arabia.
May told the House of Commons she was due to speak to Saudi King Salman today and said the UK had taken action to prevent suspects in the case from entering the UK, revoking any visas as of today.
She said no minister or official was attending the investment conference in Saudi Arabia, nicknamed “Davos in the desert”, this week. A number of corporations have also pulled out.
Said May: “We condemn the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the strongest possible terms and after his disappearance we made clear that Saudi Arabia must co-operate with Turkey and conduct a full and credible investigation.
“The claim that has been made that Mr Khashoggi died in a fight does not amount to a credible explanation, so there does remain an urgent need to establish exactly what has happened in relation to this.”
May also answered a question in relation to the Telegraph’s morning splash in which it revealed that it had been “gagged” by an injunction granted by the Court of Appeal yesterday from revealing allegations of sexual harassment and racial abuse by a “leading” UK businessman.
There had been an expectation that Labour MP Jess Phillips might use parliamentary privilege to name the businessman during PMQs, but she tweeted shortly before midday, saying: “I won’t name anyone in today’s PMQs before everyone gets excited, I don’t know the name of the person.”
Phillips did however ask about the issue of non-disclosure agreements, or NDAs, that the Telegraph claimed had been used at least five times by the businessman to keep alleged victims quiet with “substantial sums”.
She asked: “It seems that our laws allow rich and powerful men to pretty much do whatever they want as long as they can pay to keep it quiet.
“So does the Prime Minister support the Court of Appeal’s decision to back non-disclosure agreements which have been used to silence women who have been sexually harassed and others who have been racially abused?”
May said she couldn’t comment on a particular case currently before the courts, but added: “What I will say, what I have said previously, is that sexual harassment in the workplace is against the law – such abhorrent behaviour should not be tolerated.”
She said there “must be consequences for failing to comply with the law” before turning to NDAS directly.
“Non-disclosure agreements cannot stop people from whistleblowing, but it is clear some employers are using them unethically,” she said.
“The Government is going to bring forward measures for consideration for consultation to seek to improve the regulation around non-disclosure agreements and make it absolutely explicit to employees when a non-disclosure agreement does not apply or cannot be enforced.”