US says Khashoggi report will help bring 'accountability'

US says Khashoggi report will help bring 'accountability'
The US is preparing to declassify intelligence on the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
3 min read
26 February, 2021
The report's release is a sharp departure from former president Donald Trump's policies [Getty]

The United States on Thursday prepared to release intelligence on the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi that is expected to implicate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, saying the report would help bring accountability. 

As part of a new focus on human rights, President Joe Biden will imminently declassify the report into the grisly October 2018 murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul of the US-based journalist, who had written critically about Prince Mohammed.

Biden will speak "very soon" to King Salman before the release of the report and is weighing additional action, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

"There are a range of actions that are on the table but the first step," she said, "is for the president to speak with the king."

State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters the administration would soon have more to say on "steps to promote accountability going forward for this horrific crime."

"It's an important step in the direction of transparency. Transparency, as it often is, is an element of accountability," he said of the report's release.

On the impact of ties with Saudi Arabia, Price said that Biden "will review the entirety of that relationship to make sure that it advances the interests of the American people and to ensure that it reflects (their) values."

The report's release is a sharp departure from the policies of former president Donald Trump, who hailed his close friendship with Saudi Arabia and whose son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, became texting friends with 35-year-old Prince Mohammed.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday had his own telephone call with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan and "discussed the importance of Saudi progress on human rights, including through legal and judicial reforms," Price said.

Prince Mohammed, who is considered the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia due to the king's fragile health, has said he accepts Saudi Arabia's overall responsibility but denies a personal link.

Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of Democracy for the Arab World, an advocacy group founded by Khashoggi, said that Biden needed to take action beyond sending the report to Congress.

"President Biden should now fulfill his promise to hold MBS accountable for this murder by, at minimum, imposing the same sanctions on him as those imposed on his underlying culprits and ending the weapons transfers to Saudi Arabia that would be controlled by an unelected, brutal murderer," she said.

Five people were handed death sentences over Khashoggi's killing but a Saudi court in September overturned them while giving jail terms of up to 20 years to eight unnamed defendants following secretive legal proceedings.

Human rights advocates called the judicial process a whitewash aimed at blaming the hitmen while not touching the mastermind.

CNN, quoting documents filed in a Canadian civil lawsuit, reported that two private jets used by the squad that allegedly flew to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi were owned by a company earlier seized by Prince Mohammed.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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