Swiss halt Saudi arms parts trade over Khashoggi case

The Swiss government decided Wednesday to halt deliveries of spare weapons parts to Saudi Arabia amid concern over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Swiss halt Saudi arms parts trade over Khashoggi case
A demonstrator holds a poster picturing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and a lightened candle during a gathering outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul on October 25th. Photo: AFP

Switzerland halted weapons exports to Saudi Arabia in 2009, with the exception of spare weapons parts, as well as munitions for air-defence systems and firearms for private use.

But the government, known as the Federal Council, has now decided that already authorised exports of spare weapons parts will not be delivered for now, Fabian Maienfisch, a spokesman at the economic affairs department, told AFP in an email.

“This is just a temporary measure,” he said, acknowledging that the decision came “in the wake of the Khashoggi case.”

He emphasised that the government would follow developments and could potentially reverse the decision in the future.

The news came on the same day the Swiss government announced it would not go ahead with a planned relaxation of the rules for weapons exports to conflict states after the proposal was widely condemned.

Khashoggi, a 59-year-old Saudi journalist and Washington Post contributor critical of the powerful Saudi crown prince, was killed after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain paperwork ahead of his upcoming wedding. 

Turkey's chief prosecutor made details of the murder public for the first time Wednesday, divulging that the journalist had been strangled as soon as he entered the consulate.

Gruesome reports in the Turkish media had previously alleged that Khashoggi had been killed and cut into pieces by a team sent from Riyadh to silence him. His body is still missing.

After initially insisting that Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, then saying he died in a brawl during an interview, the Saudi regime has since admitted he was killed by a “rogue operation”, and arrested 18 people.

The case has sorely strained relations between Saudi Arabia and the West, and has fuelled international debate about arms deliveries to the ultra-conservative kingdom.