United States has placed economic sanctions on 17 Saudis allegedly involved in dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi‘s murder, including top aide of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saud al-Qahtani, Al Jazeera reported.
Khashoggi entered the building on October 2 to obtain documentation certifying he had divorced his ex-wife. He was not seen since.
Turkish media have reported Khashoggi was killed and dismembered based on recordings from the consulate. They say he died at the hands of a 15-member assassination squad from Saudi Arabia.
The sanctions include travel bans which are already in place and freezing of assets which prohibits any American to do business with them.
“The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on Thursday. “These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions.”
The sanctions will be implemented under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which targets the perpetrators of serious human rights abuses and corruption. The announcement was unusual for Washington, which rarely imposes sanctions on Riyadh.
The move came after Riyadh’s public prosecutor said five out of 11 suspects are facing a possible death sentence in the case.
Moreover, France’s foreign ministry has said the probe by Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor into Khashoggi’s killing is moving in the right direction.
Saudi’s deputy public prosecutor said earlier that Riyadh was seeking the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects charged in connection to the case.
“We ask that the responsibilities are clearly established and that the perpetrators answer them in a real trial,” Agnes von der Muhll, France’s foreign ministry spokesperson, told reporters in a daily briefing.
“The Saudi authorities’ announcement that the 18 people arrested in connection with the investigation goes in the right direction.”
Although France has warned of possible sanctions once the truth is established, the French reaction has been relatively guarded. Paris is keen to retain its influence with Riyadh and protect commercial relations spanning energy, finance and military weapons sales, according to the AJ report.
Meanwhile, Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, said Khashoggi’s killing is now a legal case and should not be politicised after the public prosecutor said it would seek the death penalty for five suspects.
“The politicisation of the issue contributes to a fissure in the Islamic world while the kingdom seeks the unity of the Islamic world,” he told reporters in the capital, Riyadh.
Last month, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had called the killing a “political murder”, adding that international investigators should be included in the probe.
Al-Jubeir reiterated that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had “absolutely nothing to do” with the murder, while after being asked about possible international sanctions in response to the case, he said there was a difference between sanctioning individuals and holding the Saudi government responsible.