The fiancee of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi today demanded that Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman be ‘punished without delay’ after the US directly accused him for the first time of ordering the grisly killing.
Hatice Cengiz said that ‘the truth is now so clear as it is irrefutable’ after the Biden administration released a four-page intelligence report which the Trump White House had kept under wraps blaming MBS for Khashoggi’s murder in Istanbul.
‘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,’ Cengiz said.
The US state department has imposed visa bans on 76 Saudis in the wake of the report, but Biden is under pressure to take more concrete action against the prince.
Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancee Hatice Cengiz (right) has called for the US to punish Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman ‘without delay’ following the release of an intelligence assessment accusing him of involvement in the journalist’s killing
Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, pictured, is widely suspected of involvement in the killing but Riyadh denies this
Cengiz, a Turkish citizen, was waiting for Khashoggi outside when he made his fateful trip to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.
He had gone to the consulate to pick up paperwork relating to their planned marriage, but once inside he was confronted and killed by Saudi operatives.
Khashoggi had once been close to the Saudi royal family but before his death had written critical pieces in the Washington Post about MBS and his policies.
The crown prince came under worldwide suspicion over Khashoggi’s death and a UN investigator’s report in 2019 said there was credible evidence of his involvement.
Now, the US has released its four-page report saying: ‘We assess that [MBS] approved an operation… to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’.
The report says Prince Mohammed’s control over security and intelligence made it ‘highly unlikely’ that Saudi operatives would have acted without his approval.
MBS likely ‘fostered an environment in which aides were afraid that failure to complete assigned tasks might result in him firing or arresting them,’ it says.
‘This suggests that the aides were unlikely to question Mohammed bin Salman’s orders or undertake sensitive actions without his consent.’
The report adds that the suspected 15-man hit squad included seven members of MBS’s personal protective detail, known as the Rapid Intervention Force.
These bodyguards had previously taken part in ‘dissident suppression operations’ both inside and outside Saudi Arabia, Washington claims.
‘The crown prince viewed Khashoggi as a threat to the kingdom and broadly supported using violent measures if necessary to silence him,’ the report says.
Khashoggi, pictured, was once close to the Saudi royal family but became a critic of the prince who berated his policies in his Washington Post articles
Last moments: Khashoggi was last seen on October 2, 2018, entering the consulate in Istanbul where he was accosted and killed by alleged Saudi agents
While Biden’s administration has placed sanctions on some Saudis, freezing their assets and barring Americans from dealing with them, Cengiz is among those calling for stronger retribution against the prince.
‘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,’ Cengiz said.
‘Ignoring this fact and remaining in limbo without any punishment will cause us to lose our universal values of humanity.
‘How can that be reconciled with the human rights values the US and the West have espoused for so long?
‘I urge everyone to put their hands on their hearts and campaign to punish the crown prince for this crime. It will be the greatest shame for humanity if justice is in the end denied.’
Asked about the criticism of being too soft on MBS, Biden said an announcement would be made on Monday, but no major new steps were expected.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Sunday that there were ‘more effective ways to make sure this doesn’t happen again’ than to impose sanctions.
She told CNN that Biden wanted to ‘be able to leave room to work with the Saudis on areas where there is mutual agreement’.
US president Joe Biden, pictured, is under pressure to take more concrete action against the crown prince after an intelligence report directly accused MBS of being behind the killing
Turkish police searching for Jamal Khashoggi’s body after his disappearance in October 2018. His remains have never been found
Riyadh now insists that the killing was a rogue operation, having changed its story multiple times after initially denying that Khashoggi died at all.
A Saudi court sentenced the five alleged killers to death in December 2019 after trials held in near-secrecy.
Another three were given jail terms totalling 24 years, while a further three were acquitted, prosecutors said.
However, no charges were brought against either the crown prince himself or his former right-hand man Saud al-Qahtani.
UN investigator Agnes Callamard, who wrote the report setting out ‘credible evidence’ of the prince’s involvement, said the verdicts were a ‘mockery of justice’.
The watchdog Reporters Without Borders voiced fears that the five men’s death sentences were ‘a way to silence them forever and to conceal the truth’.
A Turkish investigation alleged that 15 Saudi agents were sent from Riyadh to carry out the killing by strangling Khashoggi and cutting his body into pieces. His remains have never been found.
In a 99-page report in 2019, Callamard said experts found it ‘inconceivable’ that a sophisticated 15-man mission to kill Khashoggi could have happened without the prince’s knowledge.
Two of the alleged hit squad had used diplomatic passports, and that the encounter at the consulate was ‘only possible because of the pretense of government service’, she said.