The New York Public Library said Wednesday it is cancelling an event co-hosted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s charity organization amid public opposition ahead of the anniversary of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Evan Chesler, chairman of the library’s board of trustees, said that canceling the workshop was the “appropriate thing to do” following weeks of protests and an online petition that had gathered thousands of signatures.
In a statement, the library described “public concern” around the Sept. 23 event, the so-called Misk-OSGEY Youth Forum, which was being co-hosted by bin Salman’s Misk Foundation and the UN’s youth envoy Jayathma Wickramanayake.
Campaigners argued that the UN and the library should not cooperate with bin Salman, saying it served to whitewash his reputation after a string of human rights violations including Khashoggi’s murder.
Suzanne Nossel, CEO of rights group PEN America, said the library had made the “right choice”, saying bin Salman’s government had “orchestrated the murder and dismemberment of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”
“The library is the crown jewel of the literary community in New York and indeed the nation. But it’s also an institution that stands for the free exchange of ideas and free expression, qualities that the crown prince has repeatedly disdained in both words and actions,” said Nossel.
Somia Elrowmeim, from the protest group Action Corps, also praised the decision to scrap the event and urged “other institutions of democracy and freedom to do the same.”
“Mohammad bin Salman can try to whitewash his crimes against humanity, but we will not let him wipe his bloody hands on our flag,” said Elrowmeim.
Khashoggi, a U.S.-based journalist who frequently criticized the Saudi government, was killed and dismembered on Oct. 2 last year after visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, where he was making arrangements for his planned wedding.
The CIA assessed that bin Salman had ordered Khashoggi’s murder. U.N. expert Agnes Callamard has described the death as a “premeditated execution” and called for bin Salman and other high-ranking Saudis to be investigated.
Officials in Riyadh, who initially said Khashoggi had left the premises unharmed, now say the journalist was killed in a rogue operation that did not involve bin Salman. Activists have called for accountability in Khashoggi’s death.
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