The United States says Saudi Arabia’s version of the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi is not credible and Riyadh must identify and punish the perpetrators and planners of the killing.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will emphasize the need for accountability and credibility in the investigation of Khashoggi’s death during a visit next week to the Middle East, including to Riyadh, a senior US State Department official said on Friday.
“The Secretary has been very consistent in engagements with Saudis …to really push the two points of accountability and credibility, which is that the Saudis should have a credible narrative for what happened,” said the official, who briefed reporters on Pompeo’s trip.
“I don’t think from our point of view that the narrative emerging from the Saudis or the legal process has yet hit that threshold of credibility and accountability,” the official said.
Pompeo wants both the perpetrators and the planners of the killing to be identified by the Saudis and appropriate punishments are meted out, the official added.
Khashoggi, a US-based Washington Post journalist from Saudi Arabia who had become a critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2.
US intelligence agencies believe the crown prince ordered an operation to kill Khashoggi, whose body was dismembered and removed from the building to a location still publicly unknown.
Top Turkish officials have also tied his death to the highest levels of Saudi leadership. Riyadh has denied accusations that the prince ordered the murder.
US President Donald Trump has cultivated a close relationship with the crown prince and says he stands by the kingdom’s de facto ruler despite the CIA assessment and pleas from US senators for Trump to condemn and punish the prince.
A Saudi court on Thursday held its first hearing on Khashoggi’s case in which Saudi Arabian prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects in the case.
A spokeswoman for the UN’s top human rights official, Michelle Bachelet, said on Friday that the trial is “not sufficient” and does not meet the requirements of an independent and international enquiry.
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