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  1. ITV Report

Global businesses suspend ties with Saudi Arabia amid reports journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have been murdered

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers

Global business leaders are reassessing their ties with Saudi Arabia, heaping pressure on the kingdom to explain what happened to dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi who disappeared after visiting its consulate in Istanbul.

British billionaire Richard Branson on Friday suspended business links with Saudi Arabia amid reports that Jamal Khashoggi may have been killed at the Saudi consulate in Turkey's capital.

US president Donald Trump has indicated that he will also raise the topic with Saudi Arabia's King Salman.

"What has reportedly happened in Turkey around the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, if proved true, would clearly change the ability of any of us in the West to do business with the Saudi government," Branson said in a statement.

Branson, founder of Virgin Group, says he will suspend his role as director in two tourism projects in Saudi Arabia while an investigation takes place. He is also pausing discussions about Saudi investment in space companies Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit.

Richard Branson has distanced Virgin Group from the kingdom. Credit: AP

Saudi Arabia is facing international pressure to clarify what happened to Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, with U.S. President Donald Trump and British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt among those demanding answers.

A major investment conference is taking place on October 23-25 in the Saudi capital of Riyadh and several companies have refused to attend due to the controversy.

The Financial Times, CNN, The New York Times and CNBC have all said they will not participate.

Meanwhile, friends of Mr Khashoggi say they remain "optimistic" about finding the writer alive.

Yahya Assiri, who worked in the Saudi air force, told ITV News that the family were holding out hope.

"All the news has suggested that he has been killed," Mr Assiri said.

"But I am still optimistic.

"I am not sure if I am optimistic because I want to say to myself he is still alive, or that there is a hope."

Mr Assiri added: "I am frequently speaking with his fiancee and she is still optimistic like me."

There have been allegations of a Saudi Credit: TRT World

New images and CCTV of the last known movements of missing journalist Jamal Khashoggi and a group of Saudis who it has been suggested may be connected to his disappearance have been released.

Turkish media labelled the Saudi group an “assassination squad”.

Saudi officials are yet to comment since the latest images came to light but the kingdom has previously dismissed the allegation as “baseless”.