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Saudi Arabia 'completely rejects' US report claiming crown prince 'approved' murder of Washington Post journalist

The report was released by Joe Biden’s administration this evening.

Image: PA

Updated Feb 26th 2021, 9:46 PM

SAUDI ARABIA HAS said it “completely rejects” a declassified US report that found that de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s 2018 murder.

“The government of the kingdom of Saudi Arabia completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment in the report pertaining to the kingdom’s leadership, and notes that the report contained inaccurate information and conclusions,” the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement.

In a partially redacted report released by Joe Biden’s administration this evening, US intelligence concluded that the prince “approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill” the Saudi journalist.

Khashoggi was in self-exile and residing in the United States, writing articles critical of the crown prince when he was lured to his death on 2 October, 2018.

The writer had been told by Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States to go to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul if he wanted to obtain documents for his forthcoming marriage to a Turkish woman, Hatice Cengiz.

There, the 59-year-old was killed and his body dismembered by a team sent from Riyadh under the direction of a top aide to Prince Mohammed.

Just one month after the murder, the US Central Intelligence Agency concluded with high confidence that Prince Mohammed had ordered the assassination.

In the newly declassified report, a 15-member Saudi squad was said to have gone to Istanbul.

The US said it had “high confidence” the group participated in the killing, although it said it was unclear if they knew the operation would lead to Khashoggi’s death.

“Since 2017, the crown prince has had absolute control of the kingdom’s security and intelligence operations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the crown prince’s authorisation,” the two-year-old report said.

It added: ”The crown prince views Khashoggi as a threat to the kingdom and broadly supported using violent measures if necessary to silence him.”

The report was completed under the administration of Donald Trump in the wake of the October 2018 killing.

Biden ordered a declassified version to be released as part of a reset in which Washington is distancing itself from the prince.

Saudi Arabia has previously said the murder was a rogue operation and has vehemently denied the crown prince was involved.

“It is truly unfortunate that this report, with its unjustified and inaccurate conclusions, is issued while the kingdom had clearly denounced this heinous crime, and the kingdom’s leadership took the necessary steps to ensure that such a tragedy never takes place again,” the foreign ministry said.

“The kingdom rejects any measure that infringes upon its leadership, sovereignty, and the independence of its judicial system,” the ministry added.

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Prince Mohammed had previously said he accepts Saudi Arabia’s overall responsibility in the killing of his vocal critic, but denied a personal link to the columnist’s killing.

The release could escalate pressure on the Biden administration to hold the kingdom accountable for a murder that drew bipartisan and international outrage.

It came after a first phone call between Biden and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman late last night.

The White House said that Biden and the 85-year-old king emphasised the countries’ security ties and “the US commitment to help Saudi Arabia defend its territory as it faces attacks from Iranian-aligned groups”.

However, in a shift from the Trump era, Biden also “affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law”.

© AFP 2021

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