Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince has called the killing of Jamal Khashoggi a “heinous crime that cannot be justified.” (Oct. 24)
LONDON — Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman addressed an international audience for the first time since the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, calling it a “heinous” crime and vowing to bring the perpetrators to justice.
“The crime was really painful for all Saudis,” the prince said on Wednesday, making no reference to allegations that he may have known about or directed Khashoggi’s death.
The crown prince spoke as part of a panel at the Future Investment Initiative summit in Riyadh, an investment conference that has gone ahead despite calls for boycotts and many high-profile participants pulling out of the event amid allegations by Turkey that a 15-man Saudi hit squad, including a member of Prince Mohammed’s entourage, “ferociously” murdered Khashoggi.
Saudi Arabia has admitted that the Washington Post columnist, who lived in exile in the U.S. over concerns for his safety, died inside the consulate on Oct 2. But the government has asserted, without offering evidence, that a team of Saudi operatives went rogue.
President Donald Trump said the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi should never have been thought about and should never have happened. He also said the military will help stop a caravan of migrants heading to the U.S. from entering. (Oct. 24)
President Donald Trump on Tuesday called the Saudi account the “worst cover-up ever.”
Top Trump administration intelligence officials, including CIA Director Gina Haspel, are scheduled to return to Washington from Turkey on Wednesday to brief the president on their talks with Turkish officials. Turkey claims it has damning evidence, including audio and video recordings, that show Khashoggi was the victim of a brutal, premeditated execution.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the administration had identified 21 Saudis involved in Khashoggi’s killing, including members of the Saudi intelligence services, the royal court, and the foreign ministry.
The State Department declined to name the Saudi suspects, but Pompeo said they will have their visas revoked or be ineligible for a visa to enter the United States. He said the administration was also reviewing possible sanctions against those individuals.
Critics said the visa revocations were essentially meaningless because the Saudis would not be traveling to the U.S. anyway.
“This is not even a slap on the wrist. This is a very hollow gesture,” said Bruce O. Riedel, an expert on Middle East policy with the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.
Hussein Ibish, a senior scholar with the Arab Gulf States Institute, said the Trump administration is not interested in meting out real penalties against Saudi Arabia in the case.
“They see this as a nuisance and an annoyance and they want to move on,” Ibish said in a conference call with reporters and other experts.
But the Turkish government had kept the incident in the spotlight, with a series of media leaks and official statements detailing their investigation and its gruesome findings. Khashoggi’s remains have not yet been recovered, but Turkish officials say he was tortured and dismembered.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan kept up pressure on Saudi Arabia on Wednesday, saying in Turkey’s capital, Ankara: “We are determined not to allow the murder to be covered up and for those responsible — from the person who gave the order to those who executed it — not to escape justice.”
The crown prince has mostly avoided appearing in public since Khashoggi’s disappearance three weeks ago, although he has spoken with Trump on the phone and received visits from Pompeo and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. In his remarks Wednesday, Salman largely focused on delivering a glowing account of the Saudi economy – a message that drew enthusiastic applause from the audience of business titans and foreign officials.
Saudi Arabian state media on Tuesday published photos of Jamal Khashoggi’s son, Salah Khashoggi, looking pained as he’s being offered condolences by the crown prince and his father, King Salman. Khashoggi’s editor at The Washington Post has said that the late columnist’s children have been barred from leaving Saudi Arabia.
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