Foreign affairs ministry says US intel claiming MBS approved the hit on Khashoggi is ‘negative, false and unacceptable’.
The fiancée of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is calling for Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to be punished after a US intelligence report found that the kingdom’s de facto ruler played a role in the murder of the journalist in 2018.
Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post newspaper who was critical of Saudi policies under bin Salman, was killed and dismembered by a hit squad in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“It is essential that the crown prince… should be punished without delay,” Hatice Cengiz said on Twitter.
“If the crown prince is not punished, it will forever signal that the main culprit can get away with murder which will endanger us all and be a stain on our humanity.”
The US intelligence report on Friday found that the prince, popularly known as MBS, had approved the operation that led to the killing of Khashoggi. Former US President Donald Trump’s administration had held back the long-awaited report.
The report also cited MBS’s “support for violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi” among the factors the assessment was based on.
“Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorization,” the report said.
The four-page report names 21 individuals who participated in or were otherwise complicit in Khashoggi’s murder.
Washington has imposed sanctions on some of those involved, but not Prince Mohammed himself.
The Saudi government, which has denied any involvement by the crown prince, rejected the report’s findings.
US President Joe Biden’s administration on Friday imposed a visa ban on some Saudi officials believed to be involved in Khashoggi’s killing and placed sanctions on others that would freeze their US assets and generally bar Americans from dealing with them.
Asked about criticism of Washington for not sanctioning MBS directly, Biden said an announcement would be made on Monday but did not provide details, while a White House official suggested no new steps were expected.
Last month, the US ended its support to Saudi’s devastating war in Yemen as part of new Biden administration’s efforts to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for its human rights violations.
Biden spoke to Saudi King Salman in a phonecall last week during which he “affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law”.
“Starting with the Biden administration, it is vital for all world leaders to ask themselves if they are prepared to shake hands with a person whose culpability as a murderer has been proven,” said Cengiz, who has been campaigning to get justice for her slain fiance.
The Saudi government, which initially said it had no information on Khashoggi, later accepted responsibility for the killing but said it was a rogue operation that did not involve the prince.
A UN human rights investigator said it was “extremely dangerous” for the US to not have taken action against MBS.
Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur on summary executions who led a UN investigation into Khashoggi’s 2018 murder, reiterated her call for sanctions targeting the crown prince’s assets and his international engagements.
“It is extremely problematic, in my view, if not dangerous, to acknowledge someone’s culpability and then to tell that someone ‘but we won’t do anything, please proceed as if have we have said nothing’,” Callamard told a Geneva news conference . “That to me is an extremely dangerous move on the part of the USA.”