Greg Norman is the CEO of LIV Golf Investments
London (AFP) - Amnesty International on Thursday criticised former world number one golfer Greg Norman over “wrong and seriously misguided” remarks about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record and the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Australian, who is chief executive of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf Invitational Series, was grilled on the issue at a launch event for the lucrative tournament near London on Wednesday.
A US intelligence assessment found that the Gulf kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, “approved” an operation to capture or kill critic and columnist Khashoggi.
Saudi officials deny this and say that his killing in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate – which sparked worldwide outrage – was a “rogue” operation.
Norman, when quizzed by reporters at the Centurion Club, which will host the first tournament of the LIV series on June 9-11, referred to past “mistakes”.
“This whole thing about Saudi Arabia and Khashoggi and human rights, talk about it, but also talk about the good that the country is doing in changing its culture,” said the 67-year-old.
“Look, we’ve all made mistakes and you just want to learn by those mistakes and how you can correct them going forward.
“I haven’t had a personal conversation with MBS (Mohammed bin Salman), I’ve never met the guy, but at the same time I do read that the Saudi government has made their statements and comments about it and they want to move forward.”
But Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s head of campaigns, said the golf tour was another example of the “sportswashing” of Saudi Arabia’s rights record.
“Greg Norman’s remarks that the Saudi government’s brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi and its attempted cover-up were a ‘mistake’ are wrong and seriously misguided,” he said.
“Far from trying to ‘move on’, the Saudi authorities have attempted to sweep their crimes under the carpet, avoiding justice and accountability at every turn.
“The regime’s human rights record is an abomination – from its murder of Khashoggi to recent mass executions and the situation for LGBTI+ people, which continues to be dire.
“The LIV Golf Invitational Series is yet one more event in a series of sportswashing exercises that the Saudi authorities are using to clean its blood-soaked image.”