Saudi dissident YouTube star defiant after Khashoggi murder

Ghanem Almasarir says he was beaten by two Saudi men in London a month before Khashoggi's killing.

    Saudi dissident satirist Ghanem Almasarir, whose social media mockery of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gets millions of hits, vowed he would not be intimidated [Robin Millard/AFP]
    Saudi dissident satirist Ghanem Almasarir, whose social media mockery of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gets millions of hits, vowed he would not be intimidated [Robin Millard/AFP]

    Saudi dissident satirist Ghanem Almasarir, whose social media mockery of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gets millions of hits, said he is undeterred by Jamal Khashoggi's murder.

    Speaking at a protest on Wednesday outside the Saudi embassy in London, Almasarir said Khashoggi's slaying had shown the wider world a darker side to the power wielded by Prince Mohammed. 

    "If they are not held accountable, they will continue to do it," the 38-year-old told AFP news agency, adding that many Saudi dissidents living in the UK were "afraid right now to leave their houses".

    Riyadh faces growing incredulity over its explanations around the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and critic of Saudi policies.

    After he disappeared at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, Saudi officials said he left unharmed. But last Friday they announced he had been killed in an altercation in the consulate.

    On Thursday, the Saudi prosecutor said Khashoggi's murder was premeditated, adding that the investigation continues. 

    World powers including the United Kingdom and France are demanding answers and US President Donald Trump has accused Saudi Arabia of lying about the murder.

    Almasarir and a dozen activists hired an old-fashioned, open-top red London bus to drive past the Saudi embassy for their demonstration, chanting "Where is the body of Jamal?" and accusing bin Salman of being behind his murder.

    The bus was plastered in banners reading "Justice for Jamal", which the demonstrators then unfurled outside the security fence surrounding the embassy.

    'They might kill us'

    From self-imposed exile in Britain, the video-blogging political satirist, who regularly roasts the ruling Saudi royal family, has racked up more than 200 million views on YouTube.

    His outspoken anti-regime criticism has also earned him enemies.

    On August 31, just over a month before Khashoggi was killed, Almasarir said he was followed and beaten by two Saudi men.

    The scene, in which he was punched in broad daylight opposite London's Harrods emporium landmark, was captured on video.

    "They might kill us and dismember our bodies," said the dissident, who has political asylum in Britain and said he has refused invitations to renew his Saudi passport at the embassy.

    Almasarir's videos ridicule in particular the crown prince, the power behind King Salman's throne.

    "I mock the Saudis. I nickname the crown prince Tubby Teddy Bear. I criticise them and make a joke out of them and their decisions," he said.

    Khashoggi's death has caused such a wave of fear among exiles that some are now wary of visiting their country's overseas missions.

    Looking at the wrought iron gates of the Saudi embassy, Almasarir said he has no plans to step beyond them any time soon.

    "If we happen to walk inside, I think we will end up like what Jamal Khashoggi has suffered," he said. 

    SOURCE: News agencies