Palestinian human rights activist warned of threat to his life by CIA

"If they don't want to kill me, then I'm not doing my job," el-Baghdadi wrote on Twitter.

May 15, 2019 00:08
2 minute read.
Palestinian human rights activist warned of threat to his life by CIA

Author and blogger Iyad el-Baghdadi speaks during an interview in Oslo. (photo credit: LEFTERIS KARAGIANNOPOULOS)


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A Palestinian pro-democracy activist and blogger, Iyad el-Baghdadi, was warned by the CIA of a threat on his life from Saudi Arabia, according to the Guardian newspaper in England. He told the BBC he was under the impression that the threat correlated with his work on attempting to secure human rights in Saudi Arabia.

The CIA, as well as Norwegian and Saudi officials have refused to comment on the case.

"If they don't want to kill me, then I'm not doing my job," el-Baghdadi wrote on Twitter.

Outspoken over social media, el-Baghdadi has criticized many different leaders in the Middle East, including the Saudi Ariabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after the former Washington Post correspondent Jamal Khashoggi was murdered within the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey.

The blogger gained prominence during the Arab Spring of 2011, and was granted asylum in Norway after being expelled from the United Arab Emirates in 2015.

"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 told the Qatar based news agency Al Jazeera.

Saudi Arabia claims that dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi died in a fight inside its Istanbul consulate in October, their first admission of his death after weeks of denials that shook Western relations with the powerful kingdom.

Riyadh provided no evidence to support its account of the circumstances that led to Khashoggi's death and it was still unclear whether other governments would be satisfied with it.

Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi, a critic of the powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was tortured and killed inside the consulate by Saudi agents. His body has yet to be found.

The Palestinian blogger was first notified of the threat on April 25 by Norwegian authorities, saying he could be in danger.

"I was not placed under protection for a long time. I was away for two to three hours, and the authorities have told me that so long as I'm in Oslo I'm reasonably safe. They said I will be provided with police protection soon," el-Baghdadi tweeted. "They seem to have me in their cross-hairs but it's not clear what they want to do."

Norway allegedly received the information from the CIA, however, both governments have declined to comment so therefore it is unclear how credible the information is.

"We believe it to be related to our projects on human rights in Saudi Arabia over the last two years, including campaigning and supporting activists and families of imprisoned activists, our work with Jamal Khashoggi, and our investigation two months ago indicating that Saudi Arabia was behind the [Amazon boss] Jeff Bezos phone hack - but we have no confirmation of this," a representative for the Kawaakibi Foundation, a non-profit el-Baghdadi co-founded, told the BBC.

US policy has a legal "duty to warn" if it suspects and gathers "credible and specific information indicating an impending threat of intentional killing, serious bodily injury, or kidnapping directed at a person or group of people," according to the BBC.

Seth J. Frantzman contributed to this report.

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