Finian McGrath urges Cabinet to take action over Khashoggi murder

Minister notes expulsion of Russian diplomat after Salisbury poisoning

 Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Photograph: AP /Hasan Jamali, File)

Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Photograph: AP /Hasan Jamali, File)

 

A Government Minister has urged his Cabinet colleagues to take “stronger action” against Saudi Arabia over the murder of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Finian McGrath, the Minister of State for Disability Issues, indicated that the State should take similar action over the murder as it did when it expelled a Russian diplomat earlier this year over the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Salisbury, England.

Although he did not specifically call for Saudi diplomats to be expelled, he drew a comparison to the action taken against Russia.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney responded by saying he met the Saudi ambassador to Ireland, Nail Al-Jubeir, in Dublin on Thursday and expressed his concern about Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance.

Mr McGrath said that Mr Khashoggi had been “chopped in pieces”, and raised other concerns about Saudi activities, such as its interventions in Yemen.

The Dublin Bay North TD raised eyebrows among his Cabinet colleagues on a separate matter on Tuesday when he used a discussion on a new Criminal Justice Bill to raise the case of Dr Bassam Naser.

Naser, of Howth Road, Sutton, Dublin was sentenced to 16 months in prison in June for failing to pay €100,000 in income tax. He also owes €200,000 in fines and penalties.

‘Strong intervention’

Mr McGrath has been lobbying for the release of his constituent and caused some anger and surprise among his colleagues by raising it at Cabinet. One Minister called it a “strong intervention” that went on for some time, but added: “The Cabinet table is not the place to be discussing individual cases.”

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan insisted he could not intervene in individual cases, while one Minister is understood to have told Mr McGrath that “white collar crime is white collar crime”.

Mr McGrath is also understood to have raised serious objections from his colleagues when he asked if Naser is not being helped because of his Palestinian roots. Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is understood to have raised Naser’s case with the Government during a visit to Ireland last month.

Mr McGrath is said to have drawn comparisons with a Dublin businessman jailed six years ago over a €1.6 million garlic import duty scam. Paul Begley was jailed for six years after admitting labelling more than 1,000 tonnes of garlic imported from China as apples, which have a lower import tax rate.

The Court of Criminal Appeal later reduced his sentence to two years. He was then granted temporary release under a community return scheme that allows low-risk prisoners to exchange the final part of their sentence by participating in community services projects.