US Thursday released report condemning Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman for personally approving the murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Declassified secret docs revealed Saudi hit squad that killed the self-exiled Saudi journalist flew to Istanbul on two private jets Crown Prince had seized
The documents, which were filed as part of a lawsuit in Canada, say ownership of Sky Prime Aviation was transferred into country’s $400bn sovereign wealth fund
In October 2018, company’s jets were used to carry out Khashoggi’s brutal murder in Turkey
US officials said their intelligence report assessed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally approved and likely ordered Khashoggi’s murder
Khashoggi had written Washington Post column criticizing bin Salman’s policies, subesequently he was killed in Oct 2018 while visiting Saudi consulate in Istanbul
President Joe Biden called the king of Saudi Arabia Thursday ahead of his administration reasing a report stating that the crown prince approved Khashoggi’s death, but no mention ofthe report during the conversation
Renewed interest grew in investigating the death of exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi earlier this week when top secret documents revealed that the assassins who killed him used two private jets from a firm that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince had seized.
President Joe Biden spoke with King Salman of Saudi Arabia on Thursday, ahead of the release of a highly anticipated U.S. intelligence report which concluded that the royal’s son approved of an operation to capture or kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The recently declassified version of a US intelligence report on Thursday, found that Mohammed bin Salman approved the 2018 killing.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s “control of decision making in the Kingdom, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammad bin Salman’s protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi,” had led CIA and other agencies to make the assessment, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in the report posted on its website.
While the overall conclusion was first reported two years ago, the declassification of the report by the Biden administration reverses a decision by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.
The documents, which were filed as part of a lawsuit in Canada, describes how ownership of Sky Prime Aviation was transferred into the country’s $400billion sovereign wealth fund, known as the Public Investment Fund, in 2017.
Just a year later, in October 2018, the company’s Gulfstreams were used to carry out Khashoggi’s murder.
According to the network, the documents that have established the link between the planes and the prince were filed by a group of Saudi-owned companies as part of an embezzlement suit against Saudi intelligence official, Saad Aljabri.
Aljabri had filed a lawsuit in Washington, DC, last year against MBS, initials for which the crown prince is known by, accusing him of sending a hit team to kill him in Canada days after Khashoggi was murdered.
Meanwhile, US officials said their intelligence report, for which the CIA was the main contributor, assessed that the crown prince approved and likely ordered the murder of Khashoggi, whose Washington Post column had criticized bin Salman’s policies.
President Joe Biden, told reporters on Wednesday he had read the report and expected to speak soon by phone with Saudi Arabian King Salman, 85, father of the crown prince, the country’s 35-year-old de facto ruler.
The report’s release is part of Biden’s policy to realign ties with Riyadh after years of giving the Arab ally and major oil producer a pass on its human rights record and its intervention in Yemen’s civil war.
Biden is working to restore the relationship with Riyadh to traditional lines after four years of cozier ties under former president Donald Trump.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters on Wednesday Biden would only communicate with the Saudi king and said the declassified Khashoggi report was being readied for release soon.
While Biden restricts his contacts to the king, others in the Biden administration are talking to Saudi officials at various levels.
‘We have been in touch with Saudi officials at numerous levels in the early weeks of this administration,’ said State Department spokesman Ned Price.
The 59-year old Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist, was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, and killed by a team of operatives linked to the crown prince. They then dismembered his body. His remains have never been found.
Riyadh eventually admitted that Khashoggi was killed in a ‘rogue’ extradition operation gone wrong, but it denied any involvement by the crown prince.
Five men given the death penalty for the murder had their sentences commuted to 20 years in jail after being forgiven by Khashoggi’s family.
President Joe Biden plans to call Saudi King Salman ahead of expected release of intelligence report on the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The Biden administration said it would recalibrate relations with Saudi Arabia and that Biden would speak with the 85-year-old King Salman bin Abdulaziz instead of his heir – a change in policy from the Trump administration
In 2019, a UN human rights investigator, Agnes Callamard, accused Saudi Arabia of a ‘deliberate, premeditated execution’ of Khashoggi and called for further investigation.
‘There is sufficient credible evidence regarding the responsibility of the crown prince demanding further investigation,’ Callamard said after the six-month probe.
A classified version of the report was shared with members of Congress in late 2018.
But the Trump administration rejected demands by lawmakers and human rights groups to release a declassified version, seeking to preserve cooperation amid rising tensions with Riyadh´s regional rival, Iran, and promote US arms sales to the kingdom.
Biden’s new director of national intelligence, Avril Haines, committed at her confirmation hearing to complying with a provision in a 2019 defense bill that required the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to release within 30 days a declassified report on Khashoggi’s murder.
Biden pledged during the 2020 presidential campaign to reassess US-Saudi ties in part over Khashoggi´s murder.
Since taking office, he has ended sales of offensive arms that Riyadh could use in Yemen and appointed a special envoy to boost diplomatic efforts to end that country’s grueling civil war.
Bin Salman has denied involvement in the October 2018 murder of Khashoggi.
Khashoggi fled Saudi Arabia in September 2017 to live in self-imposed exile. He was writing columns critical of the Saudi government – including of both King Salman and MBS – for The Washington Post when he was killed.
-Biden is working to restore the relationship with Riyadh to traditional lines after four years of cozier ties under former president Donald Trump. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner was close to bin Salman – the three men are seen together in Riyadh in May 2017.
Biden’s call with the king comes after the White House last week announced a recalibration of American relations with Saudi Arabia.
‘We’ve made clear from the beginning that we’re going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia,’ Psaki said last week.
She said part of that recalibration would include Biden speaking to the Saudi king, instead of MBS – a marked change in policy from the Trump administration.
The Biden administration is shifting America’s relationship with the Middle East country after Trump made the US’s relationship with the Saudis a priority, making his first trip abroad in 2017 to Riyadh.
Trump’s son-in-law Senior adviser Jared Kushner was close to MBS, who became next in line to the throne in June 2017 after a power struggle ousted a rival.
Kushner’s close relationship with him – the two were said to text and communicate via apps – raised eyebrows due to its taking place outside of diplomatic channels, Kushner’s lack of foreign policy experience and MBS’ reputation as a despot.
The crown prince has been accused of the torture of human rights activists; the Saudi bombing campaign in Yemen which has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis and famine; and the arrest of members of the Saudi royal family in November 2017 where he imprisoned several of his royal cousins in a Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyad.