Saudis likely to admit journalist Khashoggi died during interrogation: Report

US' moral standing at risk, Senators urge Trump to condemn Khashoggi's murder

Washington:

Saudi Arabia is preparing a report in which it is likely to admit that dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, missing since October 2, died during an interrogation at its consulate in Istanbul, according to a media report.

Khashoggi, 60, is feared to have been killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The incident has resulted in a global outrage, more so in the US as he lived here as a legal permanent resident and worked for ‘The Washington Post’.

Khashoggi, a US resident, vanished on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Turkish authorities suspect he was abducted and murdered by the Saudis.

But Riyadh insists that the journalist, a known critic of Saudi King Salman, had left the building and that murder claims are “baseless”.

US lawmakers have been demanding scrapping of the USD 110 billion mega defence deal with Riyadh, whereas heads of several companies, CEOs, newspapers have announced not to attend an upcoming finance conference in Saudi Arabia.

President Donald Trump on Monday talked to the Saudi King, during which the latter flatly denied having any knowledge of the missing journalist.

Officially Saudi Arabia has insisted that the journalist left its consulate, but so far has not been able to give any proof of it. Trump, who has warned Saudi Arabia of severe consequences, has dispatched his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for talks with the Saudi leader.

Amidst global outrage, CNN on Monday reported that the Saudis were preparing a report that will acknowledge that Khashoggi’s death was the result of an interrogation that went wrong.

The interrogation was intended to lead to his abduction from Turkey, the news channel said citing two unnamed sources.

“One source says the report will likely conclude that the operation was carried out without clearance and transparency and that those involved will be held responsible,” the report said, cautioning that things could change as the report is still being prepared.

Earlier in the day, Trump told reporters that it was possible that some “rogue element” within the government could have carried out the inhuman act.

Some of the lawmakers criticised Trump for such a statement.

“President Trump’s suggestion that Khashoggi’s elaborately planned murder in the Saudi’s own consulate was orchestrated by ‘rogue killers’ defies reality,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen.

“Orders must have come from the top. The US must not be complicit in an effort to cover up this heinous crime,” he said.

“This is not leadership. We need answers from the Saudis about Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance. The President should be leading that effort and standing up for human rights,” Senator Mark Warner said.

“Trump accepting Saudi Arabia’s #Khashoggi story without a thorough, independent investigation only enables authoritarian behaviour,” said Senator Ed Markey.

Senator Dick Durbin called for a strong response from the US. “I cannot support President Trump’s proposed arms sales given the fact that Saudi Arabia is apparently complicit in the disappearance of Khashoggi,” he said.

“Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin should cancel his participation in the Saudi investor conference and it’s long overdue that the Trump Administration nominate a US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Durbin said.

A day earlier he called on Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Saudi Ambassador to the United States.

“I told Ambassador bin Salman that he should expect a very negative response from both sides of the aisle in Congress if Mr Khashoggi was in fact kidnapped and murdered. And if that is the case, I do not believe the US should continue to be party to supporting the Saudis in the bloodshed in Yemen – a halt that is long overdue given the humanitarian disaster resulting from that conflict,” Durbin said.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post and Politico reported that two lobbying groups BGR and Glover Park have said that they would no longer represent Saudi Arabia.

Several organisations and individuals have announced that they will not attend the mega summit in Saudi Arabia as a mark of protest.

These include the World Bank, The New York Times, Bloomberg, CNBC and Uber.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, KKR executive David Petraeus and Ford Motor Chairman Bill Ford have also said that they will not attend the Saudi event.

Senator Richard Blumenthal in a tweet alleged that Trump was giving the Saudis a pass on Khashoggi murder maybe because he continues to benefit from Saudi rentals, hotel bookings and other payments to the Trump Organisation.

“Saudi govt payments violate our Constitution’s chief public corruption prohibition. Our lawsuit holds Trump accountable,” he said.

 

 

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