Jamal Khashoggi's Death Highlights Ties Between a Connecticut College and Saudi Security

Widespread revulsion over the reported murder of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi has brought renewed attention to a Connecticut college with ties to the kingdom’s police and intelligence establishment.

Human rights activists protested in 2016 when the University of New Haven, in Connecticut, signed an agreement to help the King Fahd Security College in Riyadh train "Saudi Arabia's next generation of security professionals” in "criminal justice, national security, and forensic science studies,” according to a UNH announcement at the time.

The protest, lodged by the Middle East Crisis Committee, a New Haven-area group of liberal academics and activists, went nowhere. But this week the university's arrangement with the Saudis came under renewed fire when news reports accused Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy, a board member of the Society of of Forensic Medicine at King Fahd Security College, of being the man who allegedly dismembered Khashoggi’s body in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Al-Tubaigy is head of forensics at the Saudi General Security Department, which oversees King Fahd.

The committee also called on directors of Yale University Law School’s Abduallah S. Kamel Center for the Study of Islamic Law, which is funded by a Saudi potentate detained last year on corruption charges, “to speak out” against the Khashoggi murder, “an outrageous violation of any legal precept.”

But it saved its greatest wrath for the ties between the Saudis and UNH’s Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences. Lee is a legendary forensic scientist who worked on several high profile  murder cases, including O.J. Simpson and JonBenét Ramsey as well as Phil Spector and a reexamination of the President John F. Kennedy assassination.

“We have asked how they can justify doing work with a police college in a country with an absolute monarchy and a justice system known for prosecuting activists calling for democratic rights and full equality for women, one where suspects are tortured,”  Stanley Heller, executive director of the Middle East Crisis Committee, said in a statement Friday “We’ve been met only with silence.”  

On Friday, Saudi state television admitted that Khashoggi died in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate during “a fight that broke out." But the Middle East Crisis Committee isn’t buying it.

“In view of the Khashoggi murder we call on the University of New Haven, which has a security studies program at the police college of Saudi Arabia and is apparently teaching forensic skills there, to immediately suspend all cooperation with that college and to publicly explain what it is doing in Saudi Arabia,” Heller said. He noted that the Saudi General Security Department where al-Tubaigy is head of forensics, “controls all the police of Saudi Arabia and the King Fahd college.”

UNH spokeswoman Lyn Chamberlin told Newsweek in an interview that the university “has no ties with this individual,” Al-Tubaigy, and that the school’s only relationship with King Fahd Security College was “educational and administrative.”  

Heller noted that “the official publication” of the Saudi Society of Forensic Medicine at King Fahd College, the Saudi Journal of Forensic Medicine and Science, “lists al-Tubaigy and Henry C. Lee as Board members.”

“We’re not running the program” at King Fahd, Chamberlin said, “it’s only advisory.”  But when the partnership was announced in 2016, Kaplan said UNH was “excited to put the University of New Haven’s world-renowned programs in criminal justice, national security, and forensic studies at the service of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s next generation of security professionals.”

Beside the program in Riyadh, about 200 Saudi students are enrolled in UNH’s criminal justice degree program in New Haven, Chamberlin said. Asked how much the Saudis were paying for its students to attend UNH, or for its advisory role with King Fahd College, she said she didn’t know offhand and would “get back” to Newsweek.

Two hours later Chamberlin, the school’s vice president for marketing and communication, emailed UNH President Steven Kaplan. Newsweek obtained the email. 

Chamberlin briefed Kaplan that she had consulted with the school’s two outside public relations firms on how to handle Newsweek’s inquiry about Saudi financing and that she had decided to stonewall further inquiries.

“I am not going to call him back,” she said of a Newsweek reporter, “and will say, if he calls me, that I am still trying to chase down the people who know more about this than I do. Our consensus is that there is nothing more we need say at this point…”

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