Trump administration bars entry to Saudi diplomat linked to Khashoggi murder

Officials deny visa for former head of Saudi general counsel in Istanbul

Chris Riotta
New York
Tuesday 10 December 2019 18:25 GMT
Anniversary of Jamal Khashoggi's killing marked with Istanbul vigil

The United States has barred a former Saudi diplomat from entering the country over his alleged role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside a Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018.

Mohammed al Otaibi, who served as the Saudi consul general in Istanbul when Mr Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate, received the new sanctions on Tuesday, according to State Department officials.

The former diplomat was also the subject of sanctions against 17 Saudi officials last year in response to the killing of the journalist, who was a US resident.

Intelligence officials in Turkey identified Mr al Otaibi and a 15-person team as being involved in the journalist’s death. Those sanctions did not target the Riyadh government, however, allowing Donald Trump’s administration to stop short of any action that might affect a lucrative US arms deal with Saudi Arabia that the president vowed to preserve.

“These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement at the time.

He added: “The Government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists.”

Mr Khashoggi, a royal insider-turned-critic of Saudi policy, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018 after a struggle, by lethal injection, deputy public prosecutor and spokesman Shalaan al-Shalaan told reporters.

Mr Shalaan said Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew nothing of the operation, in which Mr Khashoggi’s body was dismembered, removed from the building and handed over to an unidentified “local cooperator.”

The former consul general in Istanbul left Turkey for Riyadh last year on a commercial just hours before his residence was expected to be searched by Turkish police, as Saudi Arabia denied any involvement in Mr Khashoggi’s then-disappearance.

The US had previously barred entry to nearly two dozen Saudi officials, including the 15 agents reportedly involved in Mr Khashoggi’s murder.

Officials revoked visas for former close advisers to the crown prince, including Saud al-Qahtani, as well as the man who allegedly organised the killing at the hands of the “execution squad”, Maher Mutreb.

Reuters contributed to this report

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