US ‘rights’ report avoids linking MbS to Khashoggi murder despite CIA report
In its annual “human rights” report, the US administration attempts to whitewash the Saudi crown prince’s role in the gruesome assassination of dissident Journalist Jamal Khashoggi despite a CIA report blaming Mohammed bin Salman for the crime.
In the section on Khashoggi’s murder, the US State Department report released on Wednesday attributed the crime to “government agents,” without mentioning the controversial prince.
This is while The Washington Post, for which Khashoggi was a columnist, reported last November that the CIA had concluded that the heir to the Saudi throne – also known as MbS -- ordered the assassination of the journalist, who was an outspoken critic of bin Salman.
In its account of Khashoggi's death, the State Department report acknowledged that he “was killed by government agents during a visit to the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey,” in early October 2018.
“The government initially claimed he had left the consulate in good health but changed its story as facts came to light,” the report added.
At a press conference unveiling the document, Ambassador Michael Kozak of the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor claimed that the report relies on facts rather than speculation on Khashoggi’s murder case.
“There are two governments that have criminal jurisdiction over the case, the Turkish government and the Saudi government, and they’re pushing towards a genuine, transparent, thorough, factual investigation,” he said.
Both Istanbul and Riyadh have been conducting an investigation into the murder, but the joint inquiry has made little progress, with the Turkish authorities considering their Saudi counterparts uncooperative.
Ankara wants the suspects in the case to stand trial in Turkey, but Riyadh refuses to extradite them.
“We have not -- and not only in the report but I think in any other format -- tried to draw our own conclusions as to who was and who was not responsible,” Kozak claimed. “Until we see that, trying to speculate about who might and might not have been involved is just not productive.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained in a preface to the report that a country’s rights record would not be a determining factor in shaping Washington’s diplomatic engagement with that state.
“The policy of this administration is to engage with other governments, regardless of their record, if doing so will further US interests,” he said.
Khashoggi was killed and his body was dismembered by a Saudi hit squad after being lured into the consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.
Turkey, which said it was in possession of audio evidence of Khashoggi’s murder soon after he failed to exit the consulate, has indirectly suggested that bin Salman was behind the journalist's killing.
After weeks of outright denial, Riyadh eventually acknowledged the “premeditated” murder but has attempted to shift the blame to bin Salman’s underlings and away from the prince himself.
Khashoggi’s murder has sparked an outcry from American lawmakers, many of whom believe President Donald Trump is covering up the crime.
Trump said last November that the US supports the Saudi regime amid the Khashoggi scandal because any damage to bilateral ties could affect American interests in West Asia.