Jamal Khashoggi fiancée hits out at Greg Norman over dismissal of journalist’s murder

Hatice Cengiz has responded to Greg Norman’s comments, saying “it is so hurtful when Jamal’s brutal killing is brushed off as a ‘mistake’ and that we should just move on.”

The fiancée of the murdered Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi has spoken of her hurt after Greg Norman referred to the 2018 atrocity as a “mistake”.

Hatice Cengiz, took aim at the Australian former golfer, who is fronting a new $255 million (£208 million) Saudi-backed rebel series, criticising those who “fall for their wealth and lies and loose morals”.

She spoke as Norman came under mounting criticism for the flippancy of his remarks on Wednesday about human rights in Saudi Arabia and, specifically, the killing of Khashoggi.

Norman had been asked about an earlier remark that people should “own up to it, talk about it”. Speaking at Centurion Club in Hertfordshire, which will stage the first event of the LIV Golf Invitational Series next month, Norman said: “Everybody has owned up to it right? Take ownership no matter what it is. Look, we’ve all made mistakes and you just want to learn from those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward.”

Cengiz, in a statement issued through her London QC, said. “It is so hurtful when Jamal’s brutal killing is brushed off as a “mistake” and that we should just move on. Would you say that if it was your loved one?”

Cengiz questioned if Norman would say such a thing ‘if that was your loved one.’ Picture: Nicholas Kamm/AFP
Cengiz questioned if Norman would say such a thing ‘if that was your loved one.’ Picture: Nicholas Kamm/AFP

Cengiz, a journalist who had been planning to marry the Washington Post columnist, has previously called for the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, to be punished after declassified US intelligence reports claimed that he sanctioned the murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Bin Salman denied that but said he took responsibility as a leader of Saudi Arabia. He is now the chairman of the PIF, the sovereign wealth fund that is bankrolling Norman’s series to the tune of $2 billion with plans to launch a 14-stop super league in 2024.

Norman said that the Saudis wanted to move on and change their culture, but Cengiz said: “How can we go forward when those who ordered the murder are still unpunished and continue to try to buy back their legitimacy? We should not fall for their wealth and lies and lose our morals and common humanity. We should all be insisting on the truth and justice; only then can we look forward with hope and dignity.”

Norman was also criticised after being quizzed about his feelings about the executions of 81 men in Saudi Arabia in March. “I’m not going to get into the quagmire of whatever else happens in someone else’s world,” he said. “I heard about it and just kept moving on.”

LIV Golf issued a statement in response to the widespread condemnation, saying that Norman had failed to articulate himself clearly. “The killing of Jamal Khashoggi was reprehensible. Everyone agrees about that, including Greg and he has said as such previously on many occasions. Greg also knows that golf is a force for good around the world and can help make inroads toward positive change. That is why he is so excited about LIV and that was the point he was making.”

Norman, the two-times Open champion, is the chief executive of LIV Golf Investments. Picture: Oisin Keniry/Getty Images
Norman, the two-times Open champion, is the chief executive of LIV Golf Investments. Picture: Oisin Keniry/Getty Images

Amnesty International damned Norman’s remarks as “seriously misguided”. Felix Jakens, the UK head of campaigns, said: “The LIV Golf Invitational Series is yet one more event in a series of sportswashing exercises that the Saudi authorities are using to clean its blood-soaked image.

“Far from trying to ‘move on’, the Saudi authorities have attempted to sweep their crimes under the carpet, avoiding justice and accountability at every turn. The regime’s human rights record is an abomination — from its murder of Khashoggi to recent mass executions and the situation for LGBTI+ people, which continues to be dire.”

Nineteen of the top 100 players, including Phil Mickelson, Lee Westwood, Sergio García and Ian Poulter, have asked for releases to play in the series. The PGA and DP World Tours have refused that request, meaning that the power struggle is heading for the courts. The PGA Tour commissioner, Jay Monahan, has vowed to ban players who play without releases, but Norman has accused him of running an “illegal monopoly” and said “we’ll defend, we’ll reimburse and we’ll represent” players.

The row between the tours is more a matter of money than morals, but some leading players have also had their say on the rebels. Justin Thomas, the world No 8, had a simple message for those planning to risk bans by taking the Saudi millions. “If you want to go, go,” he said. “Stop going back and forth.”

-The Times