Saudi Arabia rejects US report on Khashoggi killing
The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Friday said it rejects a report released by the Biden administration that concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the killing of U.S.-based journalist and Saudi critic Jamal Khashoggi.
The statement was issued by tweet from the Saudi Press Agency, the official news agency of the government of Saudi Arabia.
“The Government of The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Completely Rejects the Assessment in the Report Submitted to US’ Congress Regarding Murder of Saudi Citizen Jamal Khashoggi,” the tweet reads.
The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence on Friday released a four-page declassified report that said Crown Prince Mohammed, the day-to-day ruler of the Kingdom and heir apparent, approved an operation to “capture or kill” Khashoggi in Turkey.
“The Crown Prince viewed Khashoggi as a threat to the Kingdom and broadly supported using violent measures if necessary to silence him,” the report states. It identified 21 individuals with close ties to the prince believed to be involved in the journalists’ killing.
Khashoggi was killed by a hit squad after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul in 2018. He had entered the building under the impression he was obtaining documents to get married. Turkish authorities said he was strangled and dismembered.
The declassified report underscored the crown prince’s responsibility for the killing, saying the assessment was based on “the Crown Prince’s control of decisionmaking in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammad bin Salman’s protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi.”
The crown prince has denied having direct knowledge of the plot against Khashoggi but in an interview in 2019 said he accepted responsibility because the attack happened under his watch.
Eight Saudi individuals were convicted in the crime but their arrest and trial was criticized by human rights groups, with a senior U.N. official calling the sentences a “parody of justice.”
“The Ministry reiterates what was previously announced by the relevant authorities in the Kingdom, that this was an abhorrent crime and a flagrant violation of the Kingdom’s laws and values,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in its statement. “This crime was committed by a group of individuals that have transgressed all pertinent regulations and authorities of the agencies where they were employed.”
The ministry added, “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs affirms that the partnership between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States of America is a robust and enduring partnership.”
The Biden administration has reworked the U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia in part over Khashoggi’s killing, including ending U.S. support for the Saudi offensive in the war in Yemen and ending offensive weapons sales.
The administration announced additional actions against Saudi Arabia on Friday related to the report’s release, including visa restrictions on dozens of Saudi officials believed to be engaged in threatening dissidents overseas related to, but not limited to, Khashoggi’s death.
The Treasury Department also levied sanctions against Saudi Arabia’s former Deputy Head of General Intelligence, Ahmad Hassan Mohammed al Asiri, who was described in the report as the ringleader of the hit squad that killed Khashoggi.
Sanctions were also imposed on Saudi Arabia’s Rapid Intervention Force (RIF) because some of the members of the security organization were part of the hit squad sent to intercept Khashoggi, the Treasury Department said.
The New York Times reported that the Biden administration is refraining from imposing punitive actions against Crown Prince Mohammed to preserve critical relationships with the Saudi government, including on counterterrorism and confronting Iran.