11 Okt 2018. (RBB NEWS) – Calls mount to impose US sanctions if evidence confirms Saudi involvement in Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain a document certifying he divorced his ex-wife. He has not been seen since.
Turkish sources have told media outlets they believe the Saudi writer and critic was killed inside the consulate in what they describe as “premeditated murder”.
Saudi officials have countered that claim, insisting Khashoggi left the building before vanishing.
Here are the latest developments:
Friday, October 12
‘You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes’
US Senator Lindsey Graham told Al Jazeera that he has read US intelligence that points to the Saudi government’s involvement in the disappearance of Khashoggi.
“I’ve already seen the intel. It was very unnerving. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure this out,” Graham said.
“If it turns out that this man was killed or mistreated by the Saudi government, we expect stuff like this from [Russian President Vladmir] Putin and we come down hard on him when he does it. So, everything we did to Putin, I want to do to Saudi Arabia,” Graham added.
Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Al Jazeera: “Everything that we know points to the Saudi government and yet none of us want to jump to conclusions. If I had to bet today, they ordered it, they killed him and probably very high level people were aware of it.”
“We have got to send a signal early on that going around killing journalists is totally inappropriate and if he (MBS) has been involved there’s got to be sanctions.”
Thursday, October 11
Saudi envoy returns to Riyadh
Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington heads back to Riyadh to gather information on the whereabouts of Khashoggi.
“I’m told that he’s headed back to his home country, and we expect some information when he gets back,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told a media briefing.
Turkish-Saudi team in joint probe
Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency reported a Turkish official as saying that Ankara and Riyadh will form a joint group to look into Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Earlier in the day, Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, warned against Saudi Arabia’s participation in the official probe.
“Given that Saudi Arabia will not provide any evidence about Khashoggi’s movements in and out of the consulate, they cannot be trusted to conduct a genuine – far less effective – investigation,” Whitson said.
Istanbul’s public prosecutor said he would continue the current investigation separately.
Turkey to make probe results public
Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has promised to share the results of the probe into the journalist’s disappearance.
“We will share with the international community everything we will learn in the course of the investigation,” Cavusoglu said in a televised announcement during a trip to Iraq.
US Senator: Journalist’s death may merit sanctions at ‘highest level’
US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker said sanctions will be imposed at the “highest levels” of the Saudi leadership if Riyadh is found to have a hand in the disappearance of Khashoggi.
“If it turns out to be what we think it is today but don’t know, there will have to be significant sanctions placed at the highest levels,” the Republican senator said.
Trump: No reason to stop Saudi investments
US President Donald Trump said he saw no reason to block Saudi Arabian investments in the US despite concern over Khashoggi’s disappearance, saying the Gulf nation would then just move its money into Russia and China.
Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, also said the US was expecting a report soon on the case, but gave no other details.
‘US must pressure Saudi’ – Marwan Bishara
Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst Marwan Bishara said Washington had to act and pressure the Saudis if it wanted to defend its credibility.
“We cannot ignore the fact that there is huge public pressure brewing now in the United States, in Europe and indeed around the world,” Bishara said.
“There is a moral aspect to it as well as an economic and geopolitical one. That’s why I said the only way for a win-win situation whereby the US can have the moral upper hand on this is by pressuring the Saudis which will allow them to continue the economic and military relationship with Riyadh.”
Trump: US assisting Turkish investigators
The United States has investigators overseas to assist Turkey in its investigation of the disappearance of Khashoggi, US President Donald Trump said on Thursday, adding that they are also working with Saudi Arabia.
“We’re being very tough. And we have investigators over there and we’re working with Turkey, and frankly, we’re working with Saudi Arabia. We want to find out what happened,” Trump said in an interview with Fox News’ Fox & Friends programme.
US senator calls for halt in Saudi arms sales
US Kentucky Senator Rand Paul demanded a halt in military support to Saudi Arabia until Khashoggi is “returned alive”.
In an article in The Atlantic, Paul said that he planned to introduce legislation to scrap “all funding, training, advising, and any other coordination” with the kingdom until they received confirmation that the journalist is alive.
“The regime must be held accountable for Jamal Khashoggi,” he said.
Erdogan: Turkey ‘cannot remain silent’
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has increased pressure on Riyadh over the disappearance of Khashoggi, saying that Ankara ‘cannot remain silent to such an incident”.
Speaking to reporters as he returned from a visit to Hungary, Erdogan expressed disbelief at Saudi claims that Khashoggi disappeared without being picked up by security cameras after leaving the consulate.
“How is it possible for a consulate, an embassy not to have security camera systems? Is it possible for the Saudi Arabian consulate where the incident occurred not to have camera systems?” he said.
“If a bird flew, if a mosquito appeared, these systems would catch them and [I believe] they would have the most advanced of systems,” he said.
Erdogan added that the investigation by Turkey’s legal, security and intelligence bodies is ongoing.
Consular source heard screams and sounds of struggle
Turkish investigators have heard testimony from a source who was inside the Saudi consulate at the time of Khashoggi’s disappearance who claims to have heard sounds of a struggle, according to Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, reporting from Istanbul.
“I have learned earlier that, among the evidence with the investigation is testimony from inside the consulate at the time that Jamal [Khashoggi] was there, which includes hearing sounds of loud screams and shouting, as well as calls for help and the sound of a struggle and then sudden silence,” he said.
Turkish foreign ministry sources denied to Al Jazeera that Saudis rescinded their authorisation for Turkish authorities to search the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The ministry’s remarks came after some media outlets claimed that Saudi Arabia cancelled an offer to allow Turkish authorities onto the premises after Turkish state-owned media published a list of the 15 Saudi nationals who allegedly arrived in Istanbul on the same day Khashoggi disappeared.
Turkish investigators are also requesting to search a number of vehicles registered to the consulate, along with the home of the consul general, which is a few hundred metres from the consulate, after a van with tinted windows was seen leaving the consulate and driving to the home a couple of hours after Khashoggi entered.https://www.facebook.com/aljazeera/videos/320356095441812/?t=0
Titles of ‘assassination squad’ revealed
The identities of at least eight of the alleged 15-member Saudi “assassination squad” that Turkish authorities believe carried out Khashoggi’s assassination are beginning to come to light.
The head of the forensic unit in the Saudi defence forces, a former head of intelligence at the Saudi Arabian embassy in London and several special forces officers are among the group, which flew into Istanbul on Tuesday, October 2, Al Jazeera reports.
All 15 men had booked four nights in hotels near the Saudi consulate but left Turkey less than 24 hours after arriving.
Report: Prince Salman ordered Khashoggi operation
The Washington Post reports Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself ordered an operation targeting Jamal Khashoggi.
Based on US intelligence intercepts, Saudi officials were heard discussing a plan to lure Khashoggi from the US state of Virginia, where he resides, back to Saudi Arabia where he would be detained, the newspaper said, citing unnamed US officials.
It was not clear to the officials with knowledge of the intelligence whether the Saudis discussed harming Khashoggi as part of the plan to capture him, it said.
His friends told the Post that Khashoggi had been approached by Saudi officials with close ties to the crown prince over the past four months with offers to reconcile and return to the kingdom, including being given a prominent role in the government.
The writer was sceptical of the offers, however.
“He said: ‘Are you kidding? I don’t trust them one bit,'” said Khaled Saffuri, an Arab American political activist, recounting a conversation he had with Khashoggi in May.
Trump: Saudi assassination ‘looking a bit like that’
In comments made by President Donald Trump to an American TV network, the US president indicated the Saudis may have killed the critical Saudi journalist.
Asked in a telephone interview with Fox News Channel late on Wednesday whether the Saudis were responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance or death, Trump said: “I guess you would have to say so far it’s looking a little bit like that, and we’re going to have to see.”
During the interview, Trump expressed reluctance to act on calls to withhold US arms sales to the kingdom, saying that US jobs and economic strength are tied to such trade deals.
“Part of that is what we’re doing with our defence systems and everybody’s wanting them. And frankly, I think that would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country. I mean, you’re affecting us and, you know, they’re always quick to jump that way,” he said.
More than 20 Republican and Democratic senators instructed Trump to order an investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance under legislation that authorises imposing sanctions on perpetrators of extrajudicial killings.
American senators threaten arms sales repercussions
US Senator Chris Murphy said if Saudi Arabia had lured a US resident into a consulate and killed him, “it’s time for the United States to rethink our military, political and economic relationship with Saudi Arabia”.
Senator Rand Paul, a long-time critic of the Saudi government, said he’ll try to force a vote in the Senate this week blocking US arms sales to Saudi Arabia. He said he wants to end arms shipments if there’s “any indication” the Saudis are “implicated in killing this journalist that was critical of them”.
Karen Elliott House, a veteran writer on Saudi affairs and chairwoman of the board of trustees at RAND Corp, said US support for the Yemen war is likely to be the focus of congressional criticism, but it won’t endanger a relationship that has endured for decades, underpinned by shared strategic interests.
Even under the Obama administration, which had difficult relations with Riyadh compared with Trump, there were some $65bn in completed arms sales, she noted.
“The US-Saudi relationship is certainly not about shared moral values,” House said. “It’s about shared security interests.”
Saudi official condemns ‘malicious’ accusations
The Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, has described the allegations as “malicious leaks and grim rumours” and said the kingdom is “gravely concerned” about Khashoggi.
Saudi officials maintain he left the consulate shortly after entering, though it has failed to provide evidence to back that up, such as video footage.
Senior US officials call Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
The White House said National Security Advisor John Bolton and Senior Advisor Jared Kushner – Donald Trump’s son-in-law – spoke to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman about Khashoggi’s disappearance over the past two days.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo followed up with his own call to the crown prince, who has forged close ties to the Trump administration, especially Kushner.
“In both calls, they asked for more details and for the Saudi government to be transparent in the investigation process,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.
White House officials said the Saudis provided little information.
US senators trigger human rights probe
Twenty-two US senators signed a letter to President Donald Trump triggering a US investigation into whether human rights sanctions should be imposed on Saudi Arabi over Khashoggi’s disappearance.
In the letter, the senators said they triggered a provision of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, requiring the president to determine whether a foreign person is responsible for a gross human rights violation.
“Our expectation is that in making your determination you will consider any relevant information, including with respect to the highest ranking officials in the government of Saudi Arabia,” the senators said.
Trump told reporters earlier he raised Khashoggi’s case with Saudi Arabia “at the highest level” and more than once in recent days.
“We want to see what’s going on. It’s a very serious situation for us and for this White House… We want to get to the bottom of it,” said Trump.
Wednesday, October 10
US adviser suspends Saudi role
Ernest Moniz, who served as President Barack Obama’s energy secretary, said he has suspended his role on the board of Saudi Arabia’s planned megacity NEOM until more is known about the fate of Khashoggi.
“I share the deep concerns of many about the disappearance and possible assassination of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul,” Axios cited Moniz as saying.
Moniz is one of 18 people advising Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on the $500bn NEOM project.
Turkey and Saudi Arabia ‘in talks’
The New York Times writes that Saudi officials on Tuesday began for the first time to contact Turkish counterparts for secret talks about Khashoggi’s disappearance.
“The Saudis have told Washington that they believe they can smooth over the issue, according to both Turkish and American officials briefed on the discussions,” the NYT wrote.
Khashoggi’s Apple watch
A Turkish security official told Reuters news agency the Apple smartwatch Khashoggi was wearing at the time of his disappearance was being looked into by Turkish investigators.
They said the watch was connected to a mobile phone Khashoggi left outside and security and intelligence agents in Turkey believe it may provide important clues as to Khashoggi’s whereabouts or what happened to him.
If the watch and phone were connected to the internet and the devices were close enough to synchronise, data from the watch – saved to the cloud – could potentially provide investigators with information such as the journalist’s heart rate and location.
“We have determined that it was on him when he walked into the consulate,” a security official said. “Intelligence services, the prosecutor’s office, and a technology team are working on this.”
Trump wants answers
President Donald Trump says the US is “demanding” answers from Saudi Arabia about Khashoggi and that he wants to bring his fiancee to the White House.
Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Wednesday that he has a call in to Hatice Cengiz.
“People saw him go in and didn’t see him come out. We’re going to take a very serious look at it. It’s a terrible thing,” Trump said. “This is a bad situation. We cannot let this happen – to reporters, to anybody.”
Fifteen-member ‘hit squad’
Turkish media have published images of an alleged 15-member Saudi “assassination squad” and video of suspicious movements at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul following Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Saudi Arabia remained silent as the images, though not offering definitive proof about Khashoggi’s fate, played across television networks in Turkey and around the world.
Turkish media airs surveillance video
News channel 24, a private Turkish TV channel close to Erdogan, has aired surveillance video of Khashoggi walking into the Saudi consulate and a black van leaving later for the consul’s home.
The channel aired the video, suggesting that Khashoggi was inside of the black Mercedes Vito.
It said the van then drove some to the consul’s home, approximately 200 metres from the consulate, where it parked inside a garage.
Saudi Arabia did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
Khashoggi’s fiancee writes letter to Trump
Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, is asking Trump and first lady Melania to “help shed light” on his disappearance.
In a column published Wednesday by the Post, she wrote: “I also urge Saudi Arabia, especially King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to show the same level of sensitivity and release CCTV footage from the consulate.”