Projects under intelligence and defence partnership between US and Saudi on hold after killing, writes columnist.
Saudi Arabia has given the four children of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi “million-dollar houses” and “monthly five-figure payments” as compensation for the killing of their father, the Washington Post reported.
The kingdom is trying to come to a long-term understanding with the Khashoggi family members to encourage them to continue to refrain from criticism in relation to their father’s killing by Saudi agents, the paper reported on Monday.
Larger payouts – “possibly tens of millions of dollars apiece” – as part of “blood money” negotiations could be offered in the coming months, the paper said, citing accounts by current and former Saudi officials as well as people close to the family.
Negotiations over further payments are expected to take place following the trials of Khashoggi’s accused killers, according to the officials and others who spoke to the paper on the condition of anonymity.
Saudi operatives killed Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor who was living in the United States, on October 2, 2018, at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to collect documents for his planned wedding.
A critic of the Saudi government and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, Khashoggi had resisted pressure from Riyadh to return home.
His body, which Turkish officials say was dismembered, is yet to be found.
MBS has been accused of ordering the operation to kill Khashoggi, but the kingdom has rejected the claim.
The Post’s report on Monday quoted a former Saudi official saying King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud approved the “delivery of homes and monthly payments of $10,000 or more to each sibling” in 2018 as an acknowledgement that “a big injustice has been done” and a bid “to make a wrong, right”.
A current official told the Post the payments were in line with the long-standing Saudi custom of providing financial assistance to victims of crime.
“Such support is part of our custom and culture,” the official said. Dismissing the suggestion the family would be obligated to remain silent, he said the payments are “not attached to anything else”.
The houses given to the Khashoggi children are located in the Saudi city of Jeddah, in a compound where their eldest brother Salah lives. The properties are part of an initial settlement and are worth as much as $4m apiece, the Post reported.
Salah Khashoggi, a banker, plans to remain in Saudi Arabia, while the other three children live in the United States and “are expected to sell their new Saudi properties”, the Post said.
Salah is leading the financial discussions with Saudi authorities, according to the paper, and his desire to remain in Jeddah with his family has “contributed to the siblings’ deference to the authorities and caution in their public statements over the past six months”.
In an opinion piece for the Post last November, Salah’s sisters Norah and Razan wrote while their father “grieved for the home he had left”, he “never abandoned hope for his country”.
He was “no dissident”, they wrote. The essay did not address who killed Khashoggi.
In November, the Saudi public prosecutor indicted 11 unnamed suspects over Khashoggi’s killing. Five of the suspects could face the death penalty on charges of “ordering and committing the crime”.
If the men are convicted, that could pave the way for the Khashoggi family members to accept financial compensation as an alternate punishment. It is not clear whether the family would have to pardon the killers to get the money.
Such an agreement could also close the case under Saudi law, without MBS or senior aides believed to be involved in the killing, facing a trial.
Aidan White, director of the US-based Ethical Journalism Network, described the initial payments to Khashoggi’s children as one of a “variety of methods by Saudi Arabia to avoid taking responsibility” for his murder.
Saudi authorities were also “applying secrecy in the trial process” and ignoring international standards of justice, he said.
“The elephant in the room is the United States’s failure to stand up alongside other democratic governments condemning what has happened in the Khashoggi case and demanding the Saudi government be more open and respect international standards of justice,” White said, referring to US President Donald Trump’s support for Saudi Arabia and the crown prince.
Trump said in November: “It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t.”
In February, Trump refused to provide US Congress with a report determining who killed Khashoggi.
Saudi officials describe the murder as a rogue operation that went wrong carried out by a team that intended to return Khashoggi to Riyadh.
Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to MBS, was part of the team and was dismissed soon after Khashoggi’s killing, although the crown prince reportedly continued to take advice from him as recently as January.