The United States Intelligence Report on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi says that Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman approved the operation to capture or kill the Washington post-columnist Khashoggi in 2018.
The United States declared sanctions on dozens of Saudis but not the Crown Prince himself.
Saudi Arabia rejected the U.S. report, calling it ‘false, negative and unacceptable.’ Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, who is effectively the kingdom’s leader, has denied any role in the Khashoggi murder.
The Biden’s government provided the long-awaited declassified intelligence report to U.S. Congress ahead of its public release on Friday.
The 59-year-old journalist and columnist had once been an adviser to the Saudi administration and close to the royal family, but he fell out of favor and went into self-imposed exile in America in 2017. He wrote a monthly column in the Washington Post in which he criticized Prince Salman’s policies.
The executive summary of the report by the U.S. director of the national intelligence office says they assess that Saudi Crown Prince Salman approved an operation in Istanbul to capture or kill Jamal Khashoggi. They base the assessment on the Crown Prince’s control of decision-making in the KSA, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Crown Prince Salman’s protective detail in operation, and the Saudi Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi.
The crown prince Salman is the son of Saudi King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz al-Saud and is considered the effective ruler of Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. intelligence report lists three reasons for believing that the Saudi Prince must have approved the operation.
- His control of decision-making in the KSA since 2017
- The direct involvement of one of his advisers and members of his protective detail in the operation
- His backing for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad
The report goes on to name individuals allegedly complicit in or responsible for Jamal Khashoggi’s death. However, it says ‘they don’t know how far in advance’ those involved planned to harm him.
Saudi authorities blamed the killing on a ‘rogue operation’ by a team of agents sent to return the journalist to the KSA. After initially sentencing them to death, a Saudi court tried and sentenced five individuals to twenty-years in prison last September.
United Nations Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard accused the Saudi state of the ‘deliberate, planned execution’ of Jamal Khashoggi in 2019 and dismissed the Saudi trial as an ‘antithesis of justice.’
United States-Saudi Arabia relations
Antony Blinken, U.S. Secretary of State, announced the travel restrictions, dubbed the ‘Khashoggi Ban’ shortly after the Intelligence report was released.
Mr. Blinken said that those targeted are claimed to have been directly involved in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities. Moreover, he noted that perpetrators targeting perceived dissidents on behalf of any foreign government shouldn’t be permitted to reach U.S. soil.
Furthermore, the treasury department sanctioned some of those around the crown prince. Ahmad Asiri, one of his close aides, former deputy intelligence chief, and his security force, which was involved in Khashoggi’s killing.
In 2018, the CIA reportedly believed that Crown Prince Salman had ordered the killing, but the assertion that he was involved has never been made public by the American officials until now.
The world’s largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia is a crucial U.S. ally in the Middle East.
The United States President Biden is likely to take a firmer line than his predecessor Trump on human rights and the rule of law in Saudi Arabia. On Thursday, the White House said that in a phone call with Prince Salman, Mr. Biden ‘affirmed the importance the U.S. places on universal human rights and the rule of law.
According to Reuters’ sources, the Biden government is also considering the cancellation of the 2017 Saudi Arabia-U.S. arms deal that poses human rights concerns and the limiting of future military sales to defensive weapons.
The Saudi foreign ministry insisted that those answerable for the crime had been adequately investigated and justice had been served in dismissal of the Intelligence report.
Death facts of Jamal Khashoggi
Jamal Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in October 2018 to pick up papers allowing him to marry his Turkish fiancee, Hatice Cengiz. Cengiz waited for him in front of the consulate, but Khashoggi never returned.
Khashoggi had allegedly received assurances from Prince Khalid bin Salman (Crown Prince’s brother), who was ambassador to the U.S. at the time, that it would be safe to visit the consulate. Mr. Prince Khalid has denied any statement with the journalist.
According to Saudi prosecutors, Khashoggi was effectively restrained after a struggle and injected with a large amount of a drug leading to overdose, which led to his death.
Prosecutors said that his body was then mutilated and handed over to a local collaborator outside the consulate. The remains then were never found.
The details were publicized in transcripts of purported audio-recordings of the killing obtained by Turkish intelligence.