Saudi Arabia’s investigation and handling of the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul last year still lacks full credibility and accountability, a senior US official said Friday.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will continue to press the Saudis on the crime when he visits Riyadh next week as part of an eight-country Middle East tour, the official said.
“He will raise the case of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and continue to push for accountability and credibility from the Saudi leadership as they move through the legal process that began earlier this week,” the official told journalists on condition of anonymity.
“I don’t think, from our point of view, that the narrative emerging from the Saudis throughout the legal process has yet hit that threshold of credibility and accountability,” the official said.
In a case that shocked the world and caused a rift with Washington, Khashoggi was murdered and his corpse dismembered with a bonesaw inside the consulate in the Turkish capital on October 2.
After evidence emerged that the murder was committed by a team of Saudis sent from Riyadh and closely linked to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom’s de facto leader, Washington demanded a transparent investigation.
On November 15, Riyadh prosecutors announced indictments against 11 people, and on Tuesday prosecutors said they were seeking the death penalty against five of them.
But at the same time Prince Mohammed, whose closest aides were allegedly involved in the murder, was exonerated despite US intelligence reportedly having evidence that he was behind it.
Despite the indictments so far, it was not clear if anyone in the crown prince’s inner circle would be charged.
The case has made it difficult for the Trump administration to resume normal bilateral relations with the kingdom.
A bipartisan resolution approved by the US Senate last month also held the crown prince, popularly known as “MBS,” responsible for the killing.
“The Saudis should have a credible narrative for what happened in the consulate and subsequent events,” the US official said Friday.
“It’s in their interest to pursue this as aggressively as they can to get this albatross off their backs and to get out from under the shadow of this incident, which has caused such an outcry.”
– with reporting by Agence France-Presse