Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved a plan to either “capture or kill” Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018, a US intelligence report released by the Biden administration has found.
Saudi Arabia rejected the report, previously withheld by the previous administration, calling it “negative, false and unacceptable” while the crown prince, who is effectively the kingdom’s ruler, has denied any role in the murder.
After the report was released, the US announced sanctions on dozens of Saudis but not the prince himself.
Khashoggi was killed while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, intending to file paper works for his marriage. It is believed that Saudi security officers suffocated him and his body cut up.
The 59-year-old journalist had once been an adviser to the Saudi government and close to the royal family but he fell out of favour and went into self-imposed exile in the US in 2017.
From there, he wrote a monthly column in the Washington Post in which he criticised the policies of Prince Mohammed.
The report by the office of the US director of national intelligence stated that “Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi”.
The crown prince is the son of Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud and is considered to be the effective ruler of the kingdom.
The intelligence report lists three reasons for believing that the crown prince must have approved the operation:
His control of decision-making in the kingdom since 2017
The direct involvement in the operation of one of his advisers as well as members of his protective detail
His “support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad”
The report goes on to name individuals allegedly complicit in, or responsible for, Khashoggi’s death. But it says “we do not know how far in advance” those involved planned to harm him.
Saudi authorities have blamed the killing on a “rogue operation” by a team of agents sent to return the journalist to the kingdom, and a Saudi court tried and sentenced five individuals to 20 years in prison last September, after initially sentencing them to death.
In 2019, UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard accused the Saudi state of the “deliberate, premeditated execution” of Khashoggi and dismissed the Saudi trial as an “antithesis of justice”.
Shortly after the report was released, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the travel restrictions, dubbed the “Khashoggi Ban”.
Those targeted are “believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities”, he said.
“Perpetrators targeting perceived dissidents on behalf of any foreign government should not be permitted to reach American soil,” he warned.
In addition, the treasury department sanctioned some of those around the crown prince: one of his close aides, former deputy intelligence chief Ahmad Asiri, as well as his personal protective force, which was involved in the killing. (Source: BBC)