Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman, left, with Apple CEO Tim Cook during a visit to Apple in April. (BANDAR ALGALOUD/ANADOLU AGENCY/GETTY IMAGES)

Murder In Turkey Halts U.S. Tech Investments

In recent years, the Saudi Arabian monarchy has poured billions of dollars into Silicon Valley, promoting the image of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman as a savvy reformer, eager to modernize the country. But after recent allegations that Saudi agents killed journalist and critic Jamal Khashoggi, some of those companies and investors are backing away from the regime.

Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and columnist for The Washington Post, was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. The Post reported that Turkish officials claim to have audio and video recordings proving that Khashoggi was murdered and dismembered in the consulate by a group of Saudi agents.

According to The New York Times, the audio recordings indicate Khashoggi was tortured and his fingers cut off before Saudi agents murdered him. He was then dismembered and carried out of the embassy in bags.

Turkish police who investigated the embassy found signs of blood that were painted over, according to the Independent newspaper.

As details emerged about Khashoggi’s disappearance, several companies pulled out of high-profile Saudi projects. On Tuesday, Neom, a planned government-backed futuristic megacity, released a list of advisory board members. Since then, two of those members—Sam Altman, president of Y Combinator’s parent group, and Ideo CEO Tim Brown—have said they will not participate, at least for the moment. “I am suspending my involvement with the NEOM advisory board until the facts regarding Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance are known,” Altman said in a statement. Two others listed as members—Dan Doctoroff, CEO of Google-backed startup Sidewalk Labs, and Apple chief design officer Jony Ive—have said they were included incorrectly. Venture capital investor Marc Andreessen declined to comment, and board members Masayoshi Son, CEO of Softbank, and Travis Kalanick, former CEO of Uber, did not respond to questions.

Several tech figures also dropped out of the Saudi government’s Future Investment Conference, known “Davos in the Desert,” scheduled for Riyadh later this month. Steve Case, a tech investor and former CEO of AOL, tweeted that his plans to attend the conference are on hold. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told The Wall Street Journal, “unless a substantially different set of facts emerges,” he would not attend the conference. “I’m very troubled by the reports to date about Jamal Khashoggi.” Uber board member Arianna Huffington also told the Journal she no longer plans to attend.

President Trump when interviewed By Leslie Stahl of 60 Minutes, stated he didn’t know if the reporter was killed in Turkey, and that he asked the Kind Of Saudi Arabia about it with a phone call the day after the interview aired. Trump said the King unequivocally denied knowing anything about the missing journalist.

read more at wired.com