Lebanon: Journalist who interviewed Hariri in Riyadh in November confirms PM was detained

Former journalist and current lawmaker who interviewed Prime Minister Saad Hariri in November in Riyadh following his surprising resignation has confirmed the Prime Minister was detained in the Saudi capital as she was expressing concern over the fate of missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who has gone unaccounted for since last week.

Paula Yacoubian who currently sits in the Lebanese parliament following May elections, was the first journalist to interview Prime Hariri in November in Riyadh.

During a visit in the Saudi capital, Hariri read out a resignation message on a Saudi television. The resignation took the political establishment in Lebanon and foreign countries by surprise with many suggesting that he was coaxed to resign.

Paula Yacoubian in an interview with local media Al-Jadid TV on Sunday indicated that the Lebanese Premier appeared during the interview under pressure.

“It seems [Hariri] was threatened but I don’t know to what extent… without evidence or documentation I can say that he was detained,” she said.

“It was clear that Hariri was tired and under pressure. It was clear from the interview that he didn’t want to resign.”

The TV host also expressed concerns over the mystery surrounding the fate of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi who has gone missing since Tuesday (Oct.2) after entering the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul for paperwork. He has not emerged from the diplomatic facility since, leaving Turkish security forces to believe that he had been killed inside the mission.

Saudi Arabia has rejected the claims saying that Khashoggi left the consulate. Riyadh also said a Saudi investigation team arrived in Turkey and is collaborating with their Turkish counterparts.

Khashoggi left the kingdom last year and has been living in self-imposed exile in Washington. He wrote a number of columns for The Washington Post over the past year critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Yacoubian argued that if Khashoggi was killed as Turkish security sources noted, Lebanon should rejoice that Hariri was not murdered in Riyadh during his detention.

“I hope that Khashoggi is being detained and hasn’t been killed but things are pointing towards murder. If this is confirmed, thank God for Hariri coming out [of Saudi Arabia] safe” she said, according to the local media.

In a related development, the United Nations human rights office has voiced ‘serious concern’ over Khashoggi’s disappearance and has called on Turkey and Saudi Arabia to properly investigate the fate of the prominent Saudi journalist and regime critic.

“If reports of his death and the extraordinary circumstances leading up to are true, this is truly shocking,” spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani said during a press briefing in Geneva, Switzerland, on Tuesday.

Shamdasani’s comments come shortly after US President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo all expressed concern regarding Khashoggi’s whereabouts and called for a thorough and open probe by Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, Turkey’s foreign ministry said Saudi Arabia had given permission to search the premises of its Istanbul consulate.

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