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Thornberry criticises British response to Khashoggi disappearance

BRITAIN is “playing catch-up” with Donald Trump over a missing Saudi journalist, shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry warned today.

Reports claim Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi was killed while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, with Turkish authorities reported to have obtained audio and video recordings of the alleged murder.

Ms Thornberry criticised the British response from Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on the Andrew Marr Show, saying he had failed to hold the Saudis to account in the face of mounting evidence.

She noted that former foreign secretary Boris Johnson had condemned the Russians “within hours” over what turned out to be a fake murder of Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko.

In contrast, the Labour MP said, there had been “nothing but pusillanimous mutterings” from Mr Hunt over the disappearance of Saudi critic Mr Khashoggi, despite the US president threatening “severe punishment.”

She said: “He is being outdone by Donald Trump, whoever would have thought that?

“They’re playing catch-up with Donald Trump when it comes to condemnation of this and actually taking action and being prepared to stand firm.”

Ms Thornberry said the alleged murder was “yet more evidence of how the Saudi prince in particular appears to be out of control” and “this country has had enough.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock later told Marr: “We don’t know the full details yet. If the allegations are true there will be serious consequences.

“That’s what the Foreign Secretary has said, he has spoken to his Saudi opposite number and he has made that clear.”

Mr Hunt has been under increasing pressure to take tough action over the disappearance of Mr Khashoggi, who has not been seen since October 2, and has said that if reports of Mr Khashoggi’s death prove correct, Britain would regard the situation as “serious.”

Ms Thornberry said this was “too little, far too late.”

Riyadh has faced a chorus of international calls to shed light on what happened to the journalist, and business leaders have already shunned the regime.

Commons foreign affairs committee chairman Tom Tugendhat said International Trade Secretary Liam Fox should boycott the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh this month if Saudi involvement in Mr Khashoggi's disappearance was proved.

The Department for International Trade said it would “update on [Mr Fox’s activity] in due course.”

Turkish officials have said Mr Khashoggi was killed at the consulate on October 2 and his body removed.

Saudi officials have denied the allegations as baseless.

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