Trump weighs in on Saudi journalist
US demands answers on dissident who disappeared in Istanbul
US President Donald Trump on Wednesday demanded answers from Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of journalist and US resident Jamal Khashoggi, whom Turkish officials suspect was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The US sharply upped the pressure after an initially lowkey response when Washington Post contributor Khashoggi vanished on October 2.
Trump said he had talked “more than once” and “at the highest levels” to partners in Saudi Arabia, one of Washington’s closest allies and a key market for US weapons.
“We’re demanding everything,” Trump told reporters. “We cannot let this happen, to reporters, to anybody.”
On said “it would not be Trump a good thing at all” if the Saudis were proven to be involved.
Trump also said he was looking into meeting in the White House with Khashoggi’s fiancee, Hatice Cengiz.
Twenty-two senators wrote to Trump invoking the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which requires the president to open an investigation and determine whether sanctions should be imposed. The act is used in cases of suspected “extrajudicial killing, torture, or other gross violation of internationally recognised human rights against an individual exercising freedom of expression”.
Asked in the Fox interview about suggestions in Congress that arms sales to the kingdom be blocked, Trump said this would hurt the US economy. “Frankly, I think that would be a very, very tough pill to swallow for our country,” he said.
Trump spokesperson Sarah Sanders said national security adviser John Bolton, secretary of state Mike Pompeo and Trump’s close aide and son-inlaw Jared Kushner had all spoken to Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The US has not confirmed Turkish claims that Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the Saudi regime, was lured to the Istanbul consulate and killed by a team of 15 sent by Riyadh.
But The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Prince Mohammed himself had ordered the operation. Saudi officials were heard discussing a plan to lure him from the US and detain him, the Post said, citing unnamed US officials.
“Reports about Jamal’s fate have suggested he was a victim of state-sponsored, cold-blooded murder,” said Post publisher and chief executive Fred Ryan.
“Silence, denials and delays are not acceptable. We demand to know the truth,” he added.
The case has sparked outrage from rights groups.
US peace activists Code Pink mounted a protest in front of the Saudi embassy in Washington Wednesday.
“We are very very disturbed”, said Code Pink founder Meda Benjamin. “We think there is little hope Jamal is still alive.”
Khashoggi, 59, is a longtime former government adviser who went into exile last year.
He has repeatedly assailed Riyadh’s war against Yemen’s Huthi rebels, a project of Prince Mohammed that has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths and generated a major humanitarian disaster. –
We are disturbed. We think there is little hope Jamal is still alive.
MISSING IN ACTION: Nobel Peace laureate Tawakkol Karman of Yemen holds a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul this week.