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Treasury releases report on Jamal Khashoggi murder: Warner, Connolly comment

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The U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control today designated Ahmad Hassan Mohammed al Asiri, Saudi Arabia’s former deputy head of General Intelligence Presidency, and Saudi Arabia’s Rapid Intervention Force in connection with the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

These persons are designated pursuant to Executive Order 13818, which builds upon and implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuse and corruption around the world.

“Those involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi must be held accountable. With this action, Treasury is sanctioning Saudi Arabia’s Rapid Intervention Force and a senior Saudi official who was directly involved in Jamal Khashoggi’s murder,” Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said. “The United States stands united with journalists and political dissidents in opposing threats of violence and intimidation. We will continue to defend the freedom of expression, which is the bedrock of a free society.”

Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who wrote critically of the Government of Saudi Arabia, went into self-imposed exile in the United States in 2017. In his first column for The Washington Post in September 2017, Khashoggi said he had feared being arrested in an apparent crackdown on dissent. For decades, Khashoggi had been close to the Saudi royal family and also served as an advisor to the government before falling out of favor.

On Oct. 2, 2018, Khashoggi visited the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to obtain an official Saudi document stating that he was divorced so that he could marry his Turkish fiancée. Khashoggi was murdered inside the Consulate as a part of an operation that was planned and implemented by senior officials of the Government of Saudi Arabia.

As part of a broader U.S. government effort to promote accountability for those responsible for his brutal murder, on Nov. 15, 2018, Treasury designated 17 individuals for their role in the murder of Khashoggi.

Asiri, the former deputy head of Saudi Arabia’s General Intelligence Presidency, was assigned to murder journalist Khashoggi. Asiri himself was the ringleader of the operation and coordinated with Saud al-Qahtani to organize and dispatch the 15-man team to murder and dismember Khashoggi.

Following Khashoggi’s death, Asiri was removed from his position as deputy head of General Intelligence, and the Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office filed an indictment against him for “instigating premeditated murder with monstrous intent.”

Asiri is designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 for being a foreign person who is responsible for or complicit in, or has directly or indirectly engaged in, serious human rights abuse.

RIF is designated pursuant to E.O. 13818 for being owned or controlled by, or having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, al-Qahtani, a person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to E.O. 13818.

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, released the following statement on today’s report.

“For too long, the United States failed to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the brutal murder of journalist, dissident, and Virginia resident Jamal Khashoggi,” Warner said. “I’m encouraged to see the new administration taking steps to rectify that by releasing this long-overdue congressionally mandated report into his killing.”

Congressman Gerry Connolly, president of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also released a comment on the Treasury report.

“This report lays the blame for the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi, my constituent, directly at the feet of the Crown Prince,” Connolly said. “Saudi Arabia must be held accountable, and that demands a careful and complete re-evaluation of the US relationship with the Kingdom. It is a dark stain on the Trump administration that they were willing to keep this report from the American people in order to protect its relationships with the Crown Prince over and above basic American values and Jamal’s life itself.”

Connolly is the author of the Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act, legislation to hold Saudi Arabia accountable for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

That legislation would, among its provisions, prohibit arms sales to Saudi intelligence, internal security or law enforcement for 120 days, and for every 120 days thereafter until Saudi Arabia meets certain human rights conditions.

Despite bipartisan congressional efforts to hold Saudi Arabia accountable, the Trump administration continued to provide arms and military training to the Saudis. Connolly successfully offered an amendment to the FY 2020 Appropriations Package that would bar Saudi Arabia from receiving assistance provided by the International Military Education and Training program.

“For too long the Trump administration was willing to turn a blind eye in order to protect its relationships with the Crown Prince over and above basic American values and Jamal’s life itself,” Connolly said. “Justice for Jamal demands a complete re-evaluation of the U.S. relationship with the Kingdom. The Protection of Saudi Dissidents Act will do that.”

Story by Chris Graham

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