By Glenn Fleishman
November 1, 2018

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will end its commitment to partner with a charity in Saudi Arabia closely aligned with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in light of the still-unanswered questions about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a former loyalist murdered while in exile. The Wall Street Journal first reported the funding suspension.

The Gates’ organization had pledged $5 million towards a new program, Misk Grand Challenges, along with the Misk Foundation, a group that promotes youth empowerment worldwide, and which is chaired by the prince. A large photo of the crown prince appears on the site’s home page.

The Gates Foundation said in a statement provided to Fortune, “Jamal Khashoggi’s abduction and murder is extremely troubling. We are observing current events with concern, and we do not plan to fund any subsequent rounds of the Misk Grand Challenges program.” The Gates Foundation has already awarded $1.5 million, and would honor its outstanding commitments to grantees.

While the sum is small, it’s significant due to the personal reputation of the Gates couple, and as their charity was the most well-known contributor. Several organizations appear as partners on the Misk Foundation site. Google, Twitter, and the Khan Academy didn’t immediately reply to Fortune‘s request for comment about the extent of their involvement and plans in light of the Gates Foundation withdrawal.

The Seattle-based nonprofit joins a number of other businesses and individuals cutting ties or suspending projects in Saudi Arabia, including Richard Branson.

Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and a columnist for the Washington Post, was murdered in Turkey at the Saudi Arabian embassy on Oct. 2, with Turkey trickling out details of the crime nearly day since. The Saudi Arabian government has issued a series of ever-changing denials and explanations, but acknowledges he was assassinated.

The Gates Foundation’s $5 million contribution was half the funding for the program, which would distribute $100,000 grants to 100 people with practical ideas for sustainable development and improve education that generally help people under 30.


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