A Saudi official is linked to Jamal Khashoggi’s murder. He was accused of tweeting abuse at Newcastle United takeover opponents on Twitter

  • On social media, critics of Newcastle United’s Saudi takeover are attacked
  • Saud Al Qahtani may be responsible for a troll account named KateStewart22
  • Experts warn accounts are used by the Saudi regime to pump out propaganda

Critics of the Saudi takeover of Newcastle United are being attacked on social media by a Twitter account allegedly operated by an official accused by the CIA of being involved in the brutal murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Saud Al-Qahtani is believed to be behind an account called KateStewart22, which cyber experts last night warned was among thousands of troll accounts used by the Saudi regime to pump out propaganda and shut down criticism of the country’s appalling human rights record, after the kingdom’s £370 billion Public Investment Fund bought Newcastle United football club.

Among those targeted by KateStewart22 last week was The Mail on Sunday’s chief sports writer Oliver Holt, after he tweeted criticism of what he called a ‘murdering, misogynistic, homophobic, despotic’ regime.

Saud Al-Qahtani (pictured), who ran social-media operations and served as chief propagandist for Prince Mohammed, is believed to be behind a troll account called KateStewart22

Saud Al-Qahtani (pictured), who ran social-media operations and served as chief propagandist for Prince Mohammed, is believed to be behind a troll account called KateStewart22

The account, which has 25,000 followers and tweets in both English and Arabic, accused Mr Holt of ‘sly racism’ and having a ‘blatant agenda’, adding: ‘KSA [Kingdom of Saudi Arabia]The monarchy is loved by its people. Who are you to label it authoritarian?’

The account added: ‘There are many low-grade, hypocritical, desperate “journos” on here trying to bait #NUFC fans. They’re rattled the takeover happened and we have a new manager. The anti-Saudi/Newcastle agenda and bias is obvious to all. Who cares? We’re the RICHEST club in the world!’

However, court papers filed in the US claim that KateStewart22 is secretly operated by Al-Qahtani, regarded as a ‘digital henchman’ to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, known as MBS.

A lawsuit filed by Al Jazeera journalist Ghada Oueiss last year stated that KateStewart22 is a ‘masked Twitter account created and operated by’ Al-Qahtani and ‘an unidentified person based in England’. 

Ms Oueiss, a friend of Mr Khashoggi, said she was attacked by KateStewart22 and had her phone hacked by the Saudi regime after she accused Prince Mohammed of being behind Mr Khashoggi’s murder. Online, fake nude photos were posted by Ms Oueiss. She also suffered abuse online from KateStewart22 or other Saudi trolling accounts.

Al-Qahtani was the chief social-media operator and propagandist of Prince Mohammed. He was identified by US intelligence as the leader in the 2018 operation to kill Mr Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate at Istanbul. 

The building had been hacked by the Turkish and Arab intelligence services. He allegedly called in to the consulate via Skype to talk with and insult Khashoggi personally, before telling the hit squad: ‘Bring me the head of the dog.’

The CIA found out that Prince Mohammed bin Salman had exchanged at most 11 messages with Al Qahtani during the hour before and after Khashoggi’s assassination. This led the US government to conclude that bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s murder, which the Crown Prince denies.

Newcastle United's Saudi Arabian new chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan (pictured left) and Newcastle United's English minority owner Amanda Staveley (right)

Newcastle United’s new Saudi Arabian chairman Yasir al-Rumayyan is pictured (left) and Newcastle United’s English minority owner Amanda Staveley, right)

Al-Qahtani had been under house arrest following the US intelligence investigation. However, he appears to have been released by the Royal Court and is leading an army of social media trolling trolls.

Professor Marc Owen Jones, an expert in Gulf politics, said: ‘The modus operandi is about seeking out those who dare criticise Saudi, and trying to intimidate them and silence them. That’s something that KateStewart22 does. KateStewart22’s interactions with others are like a guide for who to attack.

‘She’s constantly talking about Newcastle, and the more fans that follow her the more they’ll see her rhetoric. She gives them an anchor on which they can base a lot of their justification for the takeover… she legitimises an aggressive and hostile discourse against the media.’

Al-Qahtani, Mohammed bin Salman, Newcastle United and ‘KateStewart22’ did not respond to questions.