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Hollywood star Gerard Butler drops out of Saudi event over Khashoggi disappearance Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Hollywood star Gerard Butler drops out of Saudi event over Khashoggi disappearance

Butler's move was the latest in a growing backlash against Riyadh [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 October, 2018

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A Hollywood A-lister has pulled out of a film screening in Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the latest figure to distance themselves from the Gulf state.

A Hollywood A-lister has pulled out of a film screening in Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the latest figure to distance themselves from the Gulf state.

Gerard Butler told CNN on Saturday that he cancelled his trip to Riyadh to attend a promotion event for his latest film Hunter Killer because of Khashoggi's disappearance.

"We heard about Khashoggi going missing the day before we were supposed to leave... and it just didn't feel like a smart move," Butler said.

"It felt very insensitive and it's something that we shouldn't really be getting involved with, so we thought we're going to stay away from that," he added.

The Saudi media authority, however, claimed in an online statement that Butler dropped out of the event over "family issues".

Butler's move was the latest in a growing backlash against Riyadh over reports Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Business barons including British billionaire Richard Branson and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, as well as media powerhouses like Bloomberg and CNN, have pulled out of next week's Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh, dubbed "Davos in the desert".

The pullouts have cast a pall on the annual summit at which Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman wowed investors last year with talking robots and blueprints for a futuristic mega city.

The withdrawal of Uber's Khosrowshahi from the event is particularly symbolic as the kingdom's vast Public Investment Fund (PIF) has invested $3.5 billion in the ride-hailing app.

Branson, who dropped two directorships linked to Saudi tourism projects around the Red Sea, said claims about Khashoggi's disappearance would "change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi government".

Khashoggi, who has been critical of Prince Mohammed, vanished after entering the consulate on October 2 to obtain official documents for his upcoming marriage.

Turkish officials have said they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the mission and claims have been leaked to media that he was tortured and even dismembered.

Riyadh denies the reports and says Khashoggi left the mission, without providing evidence.

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