King Salman mum on crown prince’s role in Jamal Khashoggi killing
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud Salman stood by his son and heir apparent, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, in his first public speech since the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month, which sparked an international furor and raised questions over the crown prince’s future.
During the highly anticipated annual address to the consultative Shura Council, the king steered clear of allegations that the crown prince had orchestrated the killing, while avoiding any mention of the international outrage the murder has triggered toward the kingdom.
Instead, he praised his country’s prosecutors for investigating the death of the frequent critic of the Saudi government, who lived in self-imposed exile in Virginia.
But with President Trump still pondering the full U.S. response, the backlash for Riyadh continued Monday, as German officials announced they halted previously approved arms sales to Saudi Arabia, in addition to banning 18 Saudi nationals from entering the European Union’s free travel zone because they are believed to be connected to Khashoggi’s slaying.
In Washington, Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat and member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called on intelligence officials to issue a public assessment of the plot behind Khashoggi’s Oct. 2 slaying, when a 15-man Saudi “hit team” killed and dismembered him after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain a marriage document. Khashoggi’s body has never been found.
Mr. Wyden called on CIA Director Gina Haspel and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats “to come out and provide the American people and the Congress with a public assessment of who ordered the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.”
Saudi officials have repeatedly changed their story on what happened in Istanbul, while always insisting the powerful crown prince considered the de facto leader of the oil-rich kingdom with his father ailing did not know of or approve the mission. Last week, Saudi prosecutors announced they would pursue the death penalty for five suspects connected to the killing.
In his remarks Monday, the king highlighted the work done by the Saudi judiciary and public prosecutors for “carrying out their duty in the service of justice” without specifically discussing the case.
Marwan Kabalan, director of the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, told the Arab-language news service Al Jazeera that the king alluded to the prosecutors to show the world “that he is standing by [the crown prince].”
The CIA reportedly has concluded that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s slaying, although President Trump has said he is still studying the evidence against one of his administration’s key strategic allies. Mr. Trump has said that the White House intends to issue a report on the matter by Tuesday.
Turkey, which has given audiotapes it claims capture the moment of Khashoggi’s death to Saudi Arabia and to a number of Western nations, also insists the mission was authorized at the highest levels in Riyadh.
Meanwhile on Monday, Saudi media reported that the crown prince will attend the Group of 20 summit in Buenos Aires later this month his first trip abroad since Khashoggi’s death.
Mr. Trump and world leaders from Turkey, Canada and European countries who have strongly condemned the slaying are also expected to attend the two-day summit that begins Nov. 30.