Jamal Khashoggi’s widow writes to Biden ahead of meeting with Saudi leader accused of his murder


The widow of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has urged US president Joe Biden to press the case of political prisoners if he meets with the Saudi Arabia crown prince accused by US intelligence of orchestrating the murder of her husband.

Hanan El-Atr said if the US president proceeds with what would be a highly controversial meeting with crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman, he should use it to press the causes that were so important to her late husband.

This week, the Washington Post reported Mr. Biden would meet with MBS later this month on a visit to the region.

“Biden plans to visit Riyadh in late June, after a stop in Israel to meet with Prime Minister Naftali Bennett,” it said.

The White House has not confirmed that Mr Biden is to meet the crown prince.

A senior White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told The Independent, there was no travel plan to announce, but kept the door open for such a meeting.

“If [Mr. Biden] determines that it’s in the interests of the United States to engage with a foreign leader and that such an engagement can deliver results, then he’ll do so,” said the official.

In the letter of Ms. El-Atr, written on what would have been their fourth wedding anniversary, she adds: “I recently read that you may travel to Saudi Arabia to meet with HRH Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. If you do, please remember what Jamal wanted most in this world: the release of all political prisoners being held in Saudi Arabia, including Jamal’s close friend, Essam Al-Zamil. Those prisoners must not suffer the fate of Jamal, or his two close friends who died in prison.”

Mr. Zamil, a journalist, was jailed for 15 years in 2020.

Ms. El-Atr’s husband, 57, a celebrated journalist and most recently a columnist for the Washington Post, was murdered in October 2018 after entering the Saudi consulate, apparently in order to obtain a visa. It emerged he had been planning to visit Saudi Arabia and he had gone to the consulate that day with Hatice Cengiz, a Turkish student to whom he had apparently proposed marriage.

It emerged Khashoggi had been murdered by a 12-person-strong hit team, and his body dismembered by a bone saw. It was alleged he had been murdered on the orders of the highest level of the Saudi state, after falling out with the authorities.

Saudi Arabia has denied the accusations and claimed he had been killed by “rogue” officials.

A report published in 2019 by Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions, said Saudi Arabia was responsible for “premeditated execution”.

In February 2021, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said MBS had approved the operation to capture and kill Khashoggi. (Source: Independent UK)