The fiancée of slain prominent Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi has called on US President-elect Joe Biden to release the CIA’s classified report on his gruesome murder as soon as he enters the White House.
Hatice Cengiz said the intelligence assessment, which has never been released but media outlets suggest that it concludes with “medium to high confidence” that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) ordered the killing, would “greatly assist” in finding the truth behind Khashoggi’s fate, British daily newspaper The Guardian reported on Friday.
She noted that publication of a declassified version of the report would prove Biden is determined to make good on a campaign promise to get accountability in the Saudi dissident’s 2018 slaying.
“I am calling on the president-elect to release the CIA’s assessment and evidence. It will greatly assist in uncovering the truth about who is responsible for Jamal’s murder,” Cengiz said.
During the presidential election campaign, Biden emerged as an outspoken critic of MbS. He said during a Democratic debate that he would make Saudi Arabia “the pariah they are” if he was elected. He also said the United States would stop selling weapons to the kingdom if he won.
Most political pundits and Saudi dissidents, who are living in exile, agree that Biden would seek to shake up relations with Riyadh in his first weeks in office, in contrast to Donald Trump’s posture toward Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader.
But there is also skepticism such an ideal would happen, and issues like how far Biden will go and what specific issues he could influence remain a matter of question.
“I think [releasing the classified report on Khashoggi’s murder] is an easy one for the president to do. The ramifications will be profound,” Safa Al Ahmad, a Saudi journalist and human rights campaigner who has lived outside the kingdom since 2014, said.
Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, also said, “I think it is highly unlikely. To protect sources and methods it would need to be highly redacted. Such a document would not be very satisfying. To do otherwise would be to reduce significantly our ability to monitor activities.”
Agnès Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, who investigated the Khashoggi murder, said she believed the report could be released without compromising CIA sources or methods.
“I, for one, am sick and tired of intelligence always taking precedence over justice. So much information is held by the US about the murder of journalists, including the identity of the masterminds, corrupt officials and people who abuse their power. Surely the search for justice, the fight against impunity demand that this information be made public,” she said.
Khashoggi disappeared on October 2, 2018 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to seek the documents that would allow him to marry Cengiz, who was waiting outside the building. He never emerged.
Turkish officials say Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside the consulate by a Saudi hit team. His remains have not been found so far.
Ever since bin Salman became Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler in 2017, the kingdom has arrested dozens of activists, bloggers, intellectuals and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations.
Muslim scholars have been executed, women’s rights campaigners – including Loujain al-Hathloul – have been put behind bars and tortured, and freedom of expression, association and belief continue to be denied in the kingdom.