The administration of US President Joe Biden plans to release an unclassified intelligence report that will likely incriminate Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
The Guardian reported on Wednesday that Biden was expected to call King Salman on Wednesday.
Biden’s phone call plan, the paper said, was reported on Tuesday night by Axios, which described the report as “explosive.”
Washington’s decision comes amid rising calls by human rights activists and Saudi dissidents to “strike a blow” against Saudi human rights abuses, the paper said.
Khashoggi, a former advocate of the Saudi royal court who later became a critic, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, after he entered the premises to collect documents for his planned wedding to his Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz.
According to Turkish officials, Khashoggi was killed and his body was cut into pieces by a 15-man Saudi squad inside the consulate.
The Washington Post, where Khashoggi was a columnist, reported in November the same year that the CIA had concluded bin Salman had personally ordered the murder.
“The release of the report is a long-awaited step that must be accompanied by accountability to ensure that this barbaric crime doesn’t happen again,” said Khalid Aljabri, the son of Saad Aljabri, a former Saudi intelligence official who is hiding in Canada fearing for his life.
“Toothless sanctions by the Trump administration didn’t deter MBS [as the crown prince is often known] from going after others. The Biden administration must take more effective steps by sanctioning senior officials and political figures, institutions and entities that contributed to the murder,” Khalid said, referring to the former US president, Donald Trump.
Last week, Jake Sullivan, the White House’s national security adviser, said in an interview on CNN that the administration was preparing to accompany the release of the report in the murder with a “further answer to how we will ensure that there is accountability for that murder.”
"Congress has passed a law actually mandating that the administration release an unclassified version of the report of accountability and responsibility for the brutal and grisly murder of Jamal Khashoggi," Sullivan said. "We intend to comply with that, we intend to do soon."
During his election campaign, Biden pledged to treat Riyadh as a “pariah” for the killing of Khashoggi.
Kirsten Fontenrose, director of the Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, ruled out the imposition of US sanctions on MBS personally, but said “you could see steps against state-owned enterprises and perhaps limits on the PIF [Saudi sovereign wealth fund] investments in the US. They could also issue a statement that we will not deal with MBS as head of state, which has already been said.”
Abdullah Alaoudh, the DC-based professor and son of a prominent Saudi cleric and political prisoner who is facing the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, and Michael Eisner, a former state department lawyer, have urged the Biden administration to implement “targeted sanctions” that would force the Saudi government to lift travel bans on dissidents and their families.
“Such a measure would signal to the Saudis and the world that the US … has turned the page on the Trump administration’s policy of embracing despots,” they said in a recent opinion piece on CNN.
Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World (Dawn), said, “The Biden administration should move to apply the exact same Magnitsky Act sanctions – including a travel ban and freeze of his assets – that the US applied to his 17 accomplices for the murder of Khashoggi.”
Agnes Callamard, the outgoing special rapporteur on extrajudicial killing for the United Nations, who investigated the Khashoggi murder, said targeted sanctions against the personal assets and bank account of MBS ought to be ordered as a “minimum” if intelligence showed the crown prince ordered or incited the killing.
She also called on Biden to exert pressure on the Saudis to identify the location of the remains of the slain journalist, allow for Khashoggi’s children to leave Saudi Arabia if they wish, and, if evidence showed the crown prince ordered the assassination, freeze the prince’s diplomatic engagements with Washington.
“Banishing the persons responsible for ordering the killing of Jamal Khashoggi from the international stage is an important step towards delivering justice to Jamal Khashoggi,” Callamard said.
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