Come here to laugh at the Geordies

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CSWY

Supporter
Up The Spurs! Slava Ukraini! 🇬🇧🇺🇦🇬🇧🇺🇦🇬🇧🇺🇦
Well done Palace. Hope to see more of this from all clubs. It’s hard going to outdo the Chavs and City for inappropriate backers… but the Geordies have done it.
 
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Here's why they bought the club...They are doing MBS's bidding. All of them are now pure scum.











Thousands like it on twatter. The mental gymnastics are depressing.

Still, at least console yourself that you can construct a sentence in English, unlike Big John.

They will going to post it till they do

My wife teaches seven-year old Spanish kids who can make a better stab at correct English than this imbecile.
 

Barmby

Hereski
It's funny and depressing all at the same time, as is the thought that most football fans would act in exactly the same way at the slightest hint of promised success.
 

Tomo

Supporter
Here's why they bought the club...They are doing MBS's bidding. All of them are now pure scum.











Thousands like it on twatter. The mental gymnastics are depressing.


Haha under the guise of ‘’racism’’ they are trying to protect the house of Saud sports washers.
 
Haha under the guise of ‘’racism’’ they are trying to protect the house of Saud sports washers.
Odd how Kate "I like fascist theocracies so much I've put a little Saudi flag next to my name" Stewart thinks a factually correct banner is abhorrent abuse yet seems to have no problem whatsoever with decades of genuinely abhorrent crimes against humanity.

#ButYouFillYourCarWithPetrol
 
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Parody inversion point has been reached.

Along with rainbow clown costumes and chasing down people cleaning statues from paint vandalism, it's now impossible to tell UK police forces official accounts from satire ones.

Absolute clown force.
 
On May 24, 2015, Chelsea supporters Omar and Khalid Aljabri took their seats inside Stamford Bridge and watched Jose Mourinho’s side defeat Sunderland and lift the Premier League title.

They posed together for selfies and Omar, aged 16 at the time, posted the caption “Chaaaaaaaampions !!!!” on his Snapchat account. The brothers, who grew up in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, started to follow Chelsea after elder sibling Khalid previously relocated to London. Omar followed his team from a distance, staying up late to follow Champions League games, and, his brother says, “absolutely loving Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Eden Hazard”.

This weekend, their club, Chelsea, play Newcastle United at St James’ Park and, in a former life, the pair might have Whatsapped their way through the game, sharing the joy and anguish of Premier League football. Instead, Omar, now 23, will not be watching at all. Instead, he is imprisoned in Saudi Arabia.

He, along with his jailed sister Sarah, aged 21, has not spoken to his parents or siblings for more than 18 months. Most disturbingly, four US senators wrote a letter to then-president Donald Trump in July 2020, in which they said: “The Saudi government is believed to be using the children as leverage to try to force their father’s return to the Kingdom from Canada.” Senator Patrick Leahy, one of the contributors to the letter, stated on Twitter that the Saudi royal family is holding the children as “hostages”.

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The Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, of course, is also the chair of the board of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF), which owns 80 per cent of Newcastle United. In an interview with The Athletic, Omar and Sarah’s brother, Khalid, alleges that his two siblings are being used as “bargaining chips” to put pressure on their father, Dr Saad Aljabri, who is a former leading intelligence officer in Saudi Arabia. The family allege that Bin Salman “fears” information that Aljabri may hold. They say this is underlined by a series of text messages between the pair that have been recorded in Interpol documents.

The Saudi state has convicted his two children of financial crimes and attempts to escape the kingdom unlawfully, which the family strenuously deny. Human Rights Watch experts have also highlighted the family’s plight. The Saudi embassy in Washington DC previously published a counter statement to say, “Saad Aljabri is a discredited former government official with a long history of fabricating and creating distractions to hide the financial crimes he committed, which amount to a billion of dollars, to furnish a lavish lifestyle for him and his family.”

This is an extraordinary story, a series of claims and counterclaims that would barely appear out of place in the script of a James Bond movie. The American television station CBS christened the affair as “Prince v Spy”. It includes palace coups and warring Princes. It comprises allegations over plots to kill a sitting monarch, and that’s before we get on to the stories of secret death tapes and poison rings from Russia.

In the middle of it all remains the real-life collateral. Two siblings in prison, unable to communicate directly with their immediate family. Over the past week, this has escalated into a major international news story.

Last Sunday, Dr Saad Aljabri granted his first in-person interview to CBS in the United States. Subsequently, president Joe Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki received a question about Omar and Sarah during a news conference. Aljabri’s supporters argue that his intelligence work, particularly in counter-terrorism, saved American and British lives. They argue that there is a moral obligation for the White House and Downing Street to help secure the release of his children. Khalid is understanding of British ties to Saudi Arabia but wants the British government to take a stronger position.

He tells The Athletic: “Saudi Arabia is an important country and I love my country. I really worry about my country. MBS is the person leading the country right now but this should not be an excuse to have a carte blanche to mistreat people. The thought process should be that because Saudi Arabia is important, we need to make sure that MBS is not driving it off a cliff and that includes setting a framework for engagement.

“I understand the personal relationship he has with Boris and the Whatsapp messages (they share). I understand the UK position post-pandemic and post-Brexit and the need to secure foreign investment, but that should not be an excuse to turn a blind eye to the atrocities that have happened under his watch. You can have a relationship with Saudi Arabia but it has to be established with respect for human rights and international norms.”

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Bin Salman is accused of imprisoning Omar and Sarah (Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty Images)
As the family becomes more desperate, they seek support in all quarters. They now wish to shine a light on the Premier League, which this month approved the takeover of Newcastle by PIF, PCP Capital Partners and RB Sports and Media. PIF’s board is chaired by Bin Salman, in addition to six government ministers and a royal court adviser. Only Newcastle chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan, the governor of the PIF board, does not have a direct link to the Saudi state, although he is also the chairman of the state-owned Saudi Aramco oil company.

When the Premier League ratified the takeover, it stated it had received “legally binding assurances” that the Saudi state would not control the club. The Premier League has not, however, publicly detailed those assurances or explained how the relationship will be regulated. The Premier League, PIF, the Saudi Ministry of Media and the Saudi Embassy in London were all invited to respond to the numerous allegations raised in this article. The Premier League and PIF politely declined to comment, while the two Saudi agencies did not respond at all.

Khalid Aljabri, whose siblings remain incarcerated, says he felt “disgusted” when he heard that the Premier League approved the takeover and questioned the “legally binding assurances”.

He says: “The Premier League needs to explain it. Did MBS give the Premier League a pinky promise? A pinky promise from my little kid is more legitimate than MBS’ assurances. This is a person who American intelligence assessed to have approved for somebody to be captured or killed. In that operation, PIF assets are alleged to have been used, which are supposedly under his control. Now he uses other PIF assets, Newcastle United, to whitewash his crimes.”

Aljabri is referring, in the first instance, to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who criticised Bin Salman’s regime and was subsequently murdered in the Saudi embassy in Istanbul. Saudi Arabia has described the findings of the US Office of the director of national intelligence as “negative, false and unacceptable”.

In relation to PIF assets, it has since been alleged in court filings in Canada that PIF owned two of the planes that flew Khashoggi’s alleged assassins to Istanbul. PIF is the sovereign wealth fund that now owns Newcastle United. PIF declined to comment. The Premier League also did not comment when asked whether this association might be worthy of investigation.

Khalid Aljabri continues: “I don’t want to be a hypocrite because I am also a football fan and I support Chelsea. I have supported Chelsea since the mid-1990s. I feel for Newcastle fans. They would have celebrated the same way if it was anybody who bought Newcastle because of the management of Mike Ashley. I feel for them and I am happy for them to get rid of Mike Ashley but they actually went from bad to worse.

“I say that because they have suffered for the past 15 years but now they have been bought by somebody who is causing a lot of suffering for other people. Newcastle fans should be grateful for the fact they have their freedom, that they can be with their kids and take them to watch a game at St James’ Park. My brother is a diehard Premier League fan and he cannot even watch a game on TV now.

“To summarise it, you have a Premier League fan who cannot watch a Premier League game because he is being held hostage under the authority of a man involved in the ownership group of a Premier League club. It is pretty disgusting, disgraceful and it should not have been allowed.”

The Premier League has not provided clear communication on the approval of the takeover, Khalid Aljabri argues. He says: “The basic fact you require legal assurances tells you in itself it is not separate. Why would you require legal assurances if it is? When it comes to PIF, just click on the website and look who the chairman is.

“People are not dumb. It is insulting to the average person; not only to sports fans, journalists and lawyers who have been following this. The statement from the Premier League is too shallow, thinly veiled and self-defeating. It does not answer the question. The Premier League needs to explain the legal assurances, explain the mechanisms to monitor that and how Newcastle or PIF will be held accountable. It cannot be taken at face value.”


Sarah and Omar Aljabri are, to all intents and purposes, pretty typical young people in their early twenties. Sarah, 21, intended to study design and architecture. Omar, two years older, was studying computer science and engineering. Two of eight children, they entered the family as successive siblings.

Their brother Khalid recalls: “They used to fight each other a lot but they became almost best friends. Omar has always been a strong and argumentative character. You don’t want to get into a discussion with Omar because he would always win. We joked and told him he would make a good lawyer.

“He is full of life, always the centre of the party. From their early days, after Saudi private schools, we transferred them to the British School of Riyadh and they followed the British education system. Omar was very sport-focused. He was born during the 1998 World Cup. He followed international and domestic football. His favourite team was Chelsea.

“We would meet in London and he would always ask to attend Premier League games, especially at Stamford Bridge. When he visited me in Boston, he loved going to the Celtics NBA games and in Saudi Arabia, he would stay up to watch them play. Sarah was a very shy girl, always walking behind my mother.

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Omar and Sarah in happier times
“She was the person who woke up early to make sure my parents got their vitamins and that my dad got his breakfast. I only have two sisters but Sarah was like the younger mother of the family and very protective of our siblings. She is very smart. She told me her dreams of becoming an architect.”

Dr Saad Aljabri, 62, was long considered to be one of the most influential figures in Saudi politics. As a leading intelligence official, he served as an aide to the Saudi royal Prince Mohammed bin Nayef during the pair’s period working at the interior ministry, rising to chief of staff and state minister. Bin Nayef became crown prince in 2015, which in essence made him the de facto leader of the kingdom. Bin Salman simultaneously became deputy crown prince and minister of defence, which corresponded with Aljabri being removed from his position.

By 2017, Bin Salman had ousted Bin Nayef from the position of crown prince and by 2020, Bin Nayef had been arrested and accused of treason. Aljabri, for his part, sensed his safety could be under threat in Saudi Arabia as far back as 2017 and left first for Turkey and then Canada. Since then, he says the Saudi state has been determined to return him to the kingdom or, he fears, have him killed.

In August 2019, Aljabri submitted a 106-page lawsuit in the United States, where he alleged that a “hit squad” had been dispatched to murder him in Canada in the previous October. Earlier in October 2018, the journalist Khashoggi had been murdered in Istanbul. In his first television interview, aired last Sunday, Aljabri told CBS that a six-person Saudi team landed at Ottawa airport where he says they misled customs about knowing one another and carried suspicious equipment for DNA analysis. The six men were deported.

CBS reported Canadian officials as saying: “We are aware of incidents in which foreign actors have attempted to… threaten… those living in Canada. It is completely unacceptable.” The Saudi embassy in London did not respond to a request for comment but as previously mentioned, the Saudi embassy in Washington DC said last week that Aljabri has a “long history of fabricating and creating distractions”.

In January this year, a collection of Saudi state-owned firms alleged in a Canada lawsuit that Aljabri had embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars worth of state funds intended for counter-terrorism while working at the interior ministry. Aljabri denies this.

Asked by CBS how he became wealthy, Aljabri replied: “I have served a royal monarchy in a close proximity for two decades. Three kings, four crown princes. They’ve been nice to me. They’ve been very generous. It’s a tradition in the Saudi Arabia royal family. They take care of people around them.” Regardless, earlier this year, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice issued an order freezing Saad Aljabri’s assets, luxury properties and bank accounts in Europe, Malta, the British Virgin Islands, the United States and Canada — including his $13 million mansion in Toronto. An appeal to have the freeze lifted was also rejected.

Superior Court of Ontario Justice Cory Gilmore wrote that “there is overwhelming evidence of fraud that has been presented to the court”, although it has not been proven. His son Khalid told The Athletic: “My father is innocent of these politically motivated allegations which are yet to be proven, even in the Canadian courts.”

The legal battle speaks to tension within Saudi Arabia over Bin Salman’s ambitions as leader. The crown prince’s defenders argue that he is clamping down on corruption, while his critics argue his moves are politically motivated to consolidate his power. Bin Salman signalled this intention in November 2017 when, just hours after becoming chair of a Supreme Anti-Corruption Committee, security services shut Riyadh’s private airport to prevent the nation’s wealthiest people from leaving the kingdom. Over 300 businessmen and princes were then taken to the Ritz-Carlton hotel, where it is alleged that many individuals transferred assets and money to the Saudi state. The Guardian has quoted sources who described mistreatment and duress but the Saudi state has denied abuse and said their actions returned £80 billion to the state.

Dr Saad Aljabri’s accounts in Saudi Arabia were frozen at the same time, although his family only went public following the arrest of his children in March 2020.

Aljabri, who holds a doctorate in computer science, has been credited by several Western intelligence officials for his work as a Saudi informant to Five Eyes (US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) intelligence agencies. Michael Morrell, the former acting director of the CIA, told CBS that Aljabri is “honourable”.

Morrell told CBS Aljabri had “absolutely saved American lives”. He provided the example of an attempted attack by the terrorist organisation al-Qaeda in 2010 when bombs were hidden in two desktop printers and due to be transported on two flights to the US. Morrell said that intelligence passed on by Aljabri ensured the explosives were defused during a layover at East Midlands airport in England.

The BBC has previously reported how the tip-off in that situation was provided to the British MI6, even relaying the serial number of the device the bomb was hidden in.

Aljabri’s standing may be high abroad, but back home he and his family remain under threat. Aljabri says that Bin Salman “fears” his information. In his CBS interview, Aljabri alleged that he had witnessed a video recording of a 2014 meeting between Bin Salman and Bin Nayef, who was, at the time, the head of intelligence in Saudi Arabia. Aljabri claims that Bin Salman stated he could murder the then sitting monarch, King Abdullah, by getting “a poison ring from Russia” and shaking hands with the monarch.

The threat was taken seriously and handled within the family, Aljabri claimed, before alleging that two video recordings remain of the meeting. Aljabri says he has recorded a “death video”, revealing more secrets about the royal family, which will be released if he is killed. Bin Salman has not responded to these allegations directly, although the Saudi embassy in Washington DC previously said that “Aljabri is a discredited former government official with a long history of fabricating and creating distractions to hide the financial crimes”.

PIF, which owns 80 per cent of Newcastle United and whose board is chaired by Bin Salman, declined to comment, arguing they are not answerable to questions posed of the Saudi state. The Premier League did not comment when asked whether Aljabri’s interview on CBS would be deemed worthy of their own investigation. The Saudi Embassy in London did not respond to our request for comment on these matters.


Dr Saad Aljabri did not, his allies say, intend to reach this point. As a long-serving intelligence official, he was not a man in the media spotlight. Instead, he explored back channels through more diplomatic means. Yet now more than 18 months have passed since his children were imprisoned. His family say he was left with no choice but to go public and hope that media coverage may translate into pressure on Western governments to secure the release of Sarah and Omar.

Adam Coogle, the deputy director of the Middle East and North African division at Human Rights Watch, says he takes Aljabri’s allegations “pretty seriously.” He told The Athletic: “Aljabri is a serious character. He is not a guy who escaped Saudi Arabia and immediately went to the media. It is not my impression that he had the intention of becoming someone who talks to the media. It appears he was brought to the point where he felt he had to do something to create more pressure to secure the release of his kids. I can’t speak for his allegations but he has not struck me as someone who naturally craved the camera.”

For Omar and Sarah, the incarceration began, dramatically, during a dawn raid of the family’s Riyadh residence on March 16, 2020. Previously, the children had attempted to leave Saudi Arabia on June 21, 2017, the same day that Bin Salman was officially appointed as the crown prince. Yet their family say that at passport control, both Omar and Sarah, aged 18 and 17 at the time, were told that they could not leave the kingdom for security reasons.

Their brother Khalid says: “Their life was turned upside down by the travel ban but they handled it with maturity. You were telling kids they could not be with their mum and dad or their dream schools in Boston. They took it with strength and dignity.”

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Sarah on her birthday before imprisonment
Khalid says: “It was a very scary and very painful moment. Since Omar and Sarah were banned from travel, we would talk via video calls. Then, on the day it happened, my mum was calling Sarah, who did not answer. Omar also did not answer. She felt scared because it was not usual. We kept calling, calling and calling and nobody answered. Then we received text messages from neighbours explaining what had happened. They told us that almost 20 civilian cars, unmarked, with around 50 plainclothes officers, turned up at 6am and took Omar and Sarah.

“They also took eight bags’ worth of house content. They did not get any access to legal representation initially and were placed in a secret location, which was a detention site. They were not allowed visitors and they have not had a visitor still.” When offered the opportunity to comment on this representation of events, the Saudi Ministry of Media and the embassy in London did not reply.

The Athletic asked Coogle, at Human Rights Watch, whether it would be characteristic of the Saudi state to treat individuals in this way. He said: “This is pretty much standard procedure for the cases we work on. People are arrested, often held incommunicado for a while, without access to the outside world and not given a lawyer. I take these allegations seriously because it is what Saudi Arabia does as a systematic practice.

“We have lots of publications of issues around the Saudi Arabian justice system. In general, when presented with failures writ large of the criminal justice system, they point to reform initiatives. These reforms have been going for years but do not seem to change much.”

Following their arrest, a Saudi court jailed both Sarah and Omar on charges of financial crimes and conspiracy to escape the kingdom unlawfully. Both charges were denied. Coogle argues the charges essentially amount to two students spending their family’s money, as would be typical of young people at college.

Their brother Khalid describes the charges against his siblings as “spurious” and “purely comical”. The family argue that Aljabri’s siblings have been jailed as part of the latest attempts to bring the intelligence official back to Saudi Arabia.

Khalid says: “Whatever feud they may have with my father and the former Crown Prince (Bin Nayef), families should not be used as a form of collective punishment and hostage diplomacy should never be condoned. Children should never be used to blackmail their father. Even mafias do not do this. This is not the action of a statesman or of somebody who should be welcomed by the UK or USA. You cannot behave like North Korea or Iran and then receive the red carpet welcome in London or Washington DC.” The PIF, Saudi Ministry of Media and the Saudi embassy in London did not comment.

In July 2020, Democratic senators Patrick Leahy, Tim Kaine and Chris Van Hollen, in addition to the Republican senator Marco Rubio, wrote a joint letter to then-president Trump, pleading for the US to do more to secure the release of Omar and Sarah. The letter said: “The Saudi government is believed to be using the children as leverage to try to force their father’s return to the kingdom from Canada, where he currently resides. We believe the US has a moral obligation to do what it can to assist in securing his children’s freedom.”

Coogle says that “retaliation against family members” has become more common in the Middle East. He says: “Unfortunately it has, as the region has taken a more authoritarian direction over the past decade. There is no question countries such as Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia appear to have the practice of targeting family members as a way to get at people who are outside the country. But Aljabri is the best case, as he has the text messages. These are said to essentially show the whole game which was, ‘If you do not come back, bad things are going to happen’.”

The text messages were first reported upon in the New York Times by Ben Hubbard, who has also written an acclaimed biography of Bin Salman. The texts were recorded in court filings in Washington DC District in 2020 and also in an Interpol document, which The Athletic has seen, from June 2018. These record Aljabri’s claims that Bin Salman made repeated attempts to convince the intelligence officer to return to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis failed in an attempt to have Aljabri extradited by Interpol on corruption charges.

The text messages relayed in the Interpol document include one that appears to link an intelligence file in Saudi Arabia with the fate of Aljabri’s children, Omar and Sarah. A text message allegedly written by Bin Salman said: “I want to resolve this problem of your son and daughter, but this is a very sensitive file here. I want your opinion about it as well as information from you concerning it. I also want to come to an understanding with you regarding your future situation and what the details should be.”

PIF, which owns an 80 per cent stake in Newcastle United, did not formally respond, arguing that the fund is separate from the state, despite having Bin Salman as the chair of its board. The Saudi Ministry of Media and the embassy in London did not respond.

Khalid, the brother of Omar and Sarah, is a medical doctor but says he feels unsafe to travel anywhere outside of Canada, the US or the United Kingdom. His passport expired several years ago and he must now travel on refugee documents. The Saudi embassy in London did not respond when asked whether he is correct to feel anxious.

The Premier League did not comment, again insisting they have “legally binding assurances” that PIF is separate from the Saudi state, and again declining to go on the record or put anyone up for interview to explain how this can work in practice.

Human Rights Watch expert Coogle says: “It is a really pernicious thing when sport leagues do this, as it creates all kinds of negative impacts on human rights. There is no question that it tarnishes the Premier League’s reputation. The fact they are looking us in the eye and saying PIF is separate… it is like saying water is not wet. It is the most absurd, ridiculous, ludicrous thing. I have now run out of adjectives.”


 
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