Saudi allies reject CIA’s Khashoggi report amid calls for crown prince to be sanctioned

Human rights body says US only penalising prince’s associates sends ‘terrible message’

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia Saudi:  exiles and human rights activists say the US administration must hold him accountable for the Khashoggi killing. Photograph: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia Saudi: exiles and human rights activists say the US administration must hold him accountable for the Khashoggi killing. Photograph: Erin Schaff/The New York Times

 

Saudi Arabia’s allies have rejected the US intelligence agency’s finding that the Saudi crown prince approved of the 2018 assassination of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Saudi exiles and human rights activists, meanwhile, argue that the Biden administration must hold Mohammed bin Salman accountable for the killing.

The US has imposed visa bans and asset freezes on the crown prince’s associates but has done nothing to impact on the prince personally. President Joe Biden has said he will address the issue further on Monday.

The Gulf Co-operation Council, the Emirates, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait support the Saudi foreign ministry’s dismissal of the CIA report’s finding that the crown prime was implicated in the gruesome murder in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate as “negative, false, and unacceptable”.

Turkish authorities revealed that the perpetrators had the highest level authorisation and arrived at the consulate with tools to execute and dismember Khashoggi. Nevertheless, the Saudi ministry claims the operation was carried out by rogue individuals who accidentally killed Khashoggi while trying to subdue and repatriate him by force, and that those involved had been tried and imprisoned.

Outrage

International outrage over the Khashoggi killing has not restrained the prince on the domestic or foreign fronts. While several activists, including high profile Loujain al-Hathloul, have been freed recently to impress the Biden administration, hundreds of women and men remain in prison and the authorities continue to arrest critics and detain exiles’ family members to compel them to return home.

Ex-Saudi anti-terrorism expert Saad al-Jabri, who now lives in Toronto, claims he was the target of a murder team that was apprehended by Canada shortly after Khashoggi’s killing, and he calls for release of a son and daughter held since March 2020.

Exiles welcomed the publication of the report, which cites “the crown prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad”. However, Britain-based academic Madawi Rasheed, a leading regime critic, contends that a failure to sanction him will “allow him to continue with his intrigues while ignoring international norms and values”.

A Washington Post article published on Saturday revealed that dissident Ahmad Abdullah al-Harbi (24) disappeared last month while visiting the kingdom’s embassy in Ottawa and resurfaced in Saudi Arabia, where exiles fear he is being interrogated about their activities and their families.

Arms sales

Human Rights Watch official Andrea Prasaw says US sanctions on the prince’s associates, but not him personally, sends the “terrible message” that high-ranking figures “can commit crimes with impunity” and “undermines US credibility”.

US-based Amnesty International’s Philippe Nassif contends the Biden administration should halt offensive arms sales to Saudi Arabia not only because of Khashoggi’s killing, but also for repression at home and war crimes in Yemen.

“We expect nothing less than justice for Jamal Khashoggi and all of Saudi Arabia’s brave dissidents,” said the New York-based Human Rights Foundation, which recently released The Dissident, an acclaimed documentary on his murder.