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Iran Press TV

US bars entry to 16 Saudis over role in Khashoggi murder

Iran Press TV

Tue Apr 9, 2019 05:47AM

The US State Department has barred 16 Saudi nationals from entering the United States over their involvement in the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October.

The list includes Saud al-Qahtani, a senior adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Maher Mutreb, a member of the young prince's entourage on foreign trips.

"Those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States," the State Department said in a statement on Monday.

The group had already been sanctioned by Washington in the aftermath of the apparent hit job on the US-based writer, who was also a Washington Post contributor.

Khashoggi, once a close friend of bin Salman, had criticized his policies in columns written for The Washington Post prior to his death.

Riyadh admitted to killing Khashoggi weeks after he entered the consulate on October 2. Saudi authorities first tried to avert attention from the case by offering contradicting accounts of the journalist's death. But once evidence pointed to a planned murder ordered by the highest royals, they eventually settled on the explanation that he had been killed in an operation masterminded by former advisors to bin Salman.

While the CIA has concluded that the crown prince was in on the operation, the kingdom firmly denies he had any involvement.

The recent action by Washington was done under the 2019 State Department appropriations bill, which states that the US Secretary of State must deny entry to individuals and immediate family members of foreign nationals who have been "involved in significant corruption or gross violations of human rights."

In November last year, the US Treasury Department slapped sanctions on 17 Saudis on the grounds that they had "targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States."

President Donald Trump's critics say the sanctions are not enough and the administration needs to punish MbS for his deeds.

US lawmakers, including some of Trump's closest allies in the Republican Party, have even called for bin Salman's removal.

Rights groups urge Pompeo to ensure fair murder trial

Meanwhile, in a letter drafted to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, several rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have called on him to monitor the ongoing Saudi trial of the 11 accused in the murder.

"The trial sessions held so far have been closed to the media and the identity of those on trial, as well as the charges they face, have not been disclosed," read the letter, which was also sent to French and British foreign secretaries, Jeremy Hunt and Jean-Yves Le Drian.

Saudis have invited representatives of France, Britain, the US, Russia and China to attend the trial in Riyadh.

In their letter, the rights groups pointed to the Saudi justice system's "severe inadequacies" and the regime's long record of concealing the truth through forced confessions.

"This lack of independence, transparency, and fairness has meant that the Saudi criminal justice system falls well below international human rights standards," the wrote.

"In addition to reinforcing the fair trial rights of the accused persons and to guard against potential scapegoating of some individuals, transparency around the trial can work to guarantee that the court proceedings do not cover up the alleged involvement of the Saudi leadership," the letter added.

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