Uber CEO calls Khashoggi killing a 'mistake', then backtracks

Dara Khosrowshahi expresses regret after comparing journalist's killing to fatal self-driving crash involving Uber car.

    Khashoggi was murdered by a Saudi hit squad inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul [File: Hasan Jamali/AP Photo]
    Khashoggi was murdered by a Saudi hit squad inside the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul [File: Hasan Jamali/AP Photo]

    The chief executive officer of Uber has expressed regret after calling the gruesome killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi a "mistake" by Saudi Arabia's government and comparing it to a fatal self-driving crash involving one of the ride-hailing firm's cars.

    Dara Khosrowshahi made the remarks during an interview with "Axios on HBO" after being asked about Yasir al-Rumayyan, the director of Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund, who is a member of Uber's board of directors. The sovereign wealth fund is Uber's fifth-biggest investor.

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    "Listen, it's a serious mistake. We've made mistakes too," Khosrowshahi said of Khashoggi's murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, before comparing it to last year's self-driving crash.

    In March 2018, one of Uber's self-driving test vehicles struck and killed a female pedestrian in Tempe, in the US state of Arizona. Last week, a US agency said the vehicle had software flaws.

    "We stopped driving, and we're recovering from that mistake. So I think that people make mistakes and it doesn't mean that they can never be forgiven. I think they've taken it seriously," he said.

    According to Axios, Khosrowshahi later called to voice his regret for the remarks about Khashoggi's murder and sent the following statement.

    "I said something in the moment that I do not believe. When it comes to Jamal Khashoggi, his murder was reprehensible and should not be forgotten or excused," said the statement posted on the news website on Monday.

    Gruesome murder

    Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and critic of Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was murdered by a Saudi hit squad inside the consulate on October 2, 2018. His dismembered body has not been located so far.

    In a report in June, Agnes Callamard, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, said the journalist was the victim of "deliberate, premeditated execution" for which Saudi Arabia bore responsibility.

    The report concluded there was "credible evidence" warranting further investigation of the crown prince's liability for the killing.

    The CIA has reportedly concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered the operation to kill Khashoggi. Saudi Arabia has described it as a rogue operation that did not involve the crown prince.

    After initially offering several contradictory explanations over Khashoggi's fate, Riyadh said amid a global outcry that the journalist was killed and his body dismembered after negotiations to convince him to return to the kingdom failed.

    Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for five suspects charged in the case, but has said the crown prince had no prior knowledge of the operation.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News