US President Donald Trump, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, suggested Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s role in the killing of prominent Saudi critic, Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi entered the building on October 2 to obtain documentation certifying he had divorced his ex-wife. He was not seen since.
Saudi Arabia has said the Saudi critic died in a fight inside its Istanbul consulate – after two weeks of consistent denials that it had anything to do with his disappearance.
Turkish media have reported Khashoggi was killed and dismembered based on recordings from the consulate. They say he died at the hands of a 15-member assassination squad from Saudi Arabia.
When Trump was asked about the powerful crown prince’s possible involvement in the killing, he said: “Well, the prince is running things over there more so at this stage. He’s running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him.”
Trump told the newspaper he questioned the crown prince intensely on Khashoggi’s killing “in a couple of different ways”.
“My first question to him was, ‘Did you know anything about it in terms of the initial planning?'” Bin Salman replied he didn’t, Trump said.
“I said, ‘Where did it start?’ And he said it started at lower levels.”
Asked if he believed the crown prince’s latest denial, the American president paused: “I want to believe them. I really want to believe them.”
Meanwhile, a photo showing MBS shaking hands and offering his condolences to Khashoggi’s son has gone viral on Twitter, attracting criticism due to the pained look on the son’s face.
Fadi Al-Qadi, a Middle East human rights advocate and commentator, denounced the photograph as “ruthless”.
“I think many people online looking at this on social media are saying, you know, this is the face of a son who thinks he’s shaking the hand of the man who killed his father,” analyst Chris Doyle was quoted by Al Jazeera as having said. “It’s another example in this situation where some of the Saudi attempts to win the public relations war is failing.”
Furthermore, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Washington has identified some Saudi officials responsible for Khashoggi’s killing and is taking action, including revoking visas.
“The United States doesn’t believe that the killing of Khashoggi was anything other than a horrific act, and we hope that we can work together both with Congress and our allies to hold those responsible accountable,” he told a press briefing in Washington, DC.
Pompeo also said he has been working with the US Treasury to review the applicability of global Magnitsky sanctions on the individuals who are responsible for the killing of the journalist.
“These penalties will not be the last word,” Pompeo told reporters Tuesday, adding that the US’ strategic interests with Saudi Arabia remained.
CIA Director Gina Haspel, who is currently in Turkey to investigate the death of Khashoggi, sought to hear a purported audio recording of his torture and murder, four sources familiar with her mission cited by Reuters disclosed.