Hatice Cengiz, Jamal Khashoggi’s fiancée, has asked US President-elect Joe Biden to release the classified CIA report on the murder of the Washington Post journalist once he enters the White House, a move that, according to her, it would “help enormously” in discovering the truth.
The classified intelligence assessment has never been released, but the media has reported, without providing further details, that it concludes with “medium to high confidence” that the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the assassination.
Publishing a declassified version of the report, Cengiz and other activists say, would show that Biden is committed to making Saudi Arabia “pay a price for the murder,” as he promised to do during the 2020 campaign.
“I ask the president-elect to release the CIA assessment and tests. It will be of great help in uncovering the truth about who is responsible for the murder of Jamal, ”Cengiz said.
When asked if he was under consideration, a source familiar with the transition and the thinking of the president-elect said: “The president-elect defends what he said in the election campaign about the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi. We know there is work to be done, including to provide the necessary transparency. “
Khashoggi disappeared while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 to collect paperwork for his marriage to Cengiz. His remains have never been located or returned. Riyadh eventually admitted that the 59-year-old man had been killed by Saudi agents in what he says was an extradition operation gone awry, but Prince Mohammed has always denied any involvement or knowledge of the murder.
During the elections, Biden emerged as an outspoken critic of Prince Mohammed, saying during a Democratic debate that Saudi Arabia would do.the outcast they are“If he was chosen. He also said the United States would stop selling arms to the kingdom if it won.
Most Saudi analysts and dissidents living outside the kingdom agree that the United States’ stance toward Saudi Arabia will change once Biden enters the White House, in contrast to Donald Trump’s close ties with the crown prince. .
But the question now is how far Biden will go and what specific issues he could influence. While the United States could hasten the end of the war in Yemen, pressuring the kingdom on domestic human rights abuses could prove more challenging.
“I think [releasing the classified report on Khashoggi’s murder] it’s easy for the president to do. The ramifications will be profound, ”said Safa Al Ahmad, a Saudi journalist and human rights activist who has lived in exile since 2014.
But there is also skepticism that it will happen. First, because it’s not clear that Biden will seek to shake up relations with the Saudis in his first weeks in office. Second, because of the alleged practical risks associated with intelligence disclosure.
“I think it is highly unlikely. To protect sources and methods, it should be heavily worded. Such a document would not be very satisfactory. To do otherwise would significantly reduce our ability to monitor activities, ”said Bruce Riedel, former CIA analyst and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Agnès Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, who investigated the Khashoggi murder, said she believed the report could be released without compromising CIA sources or methods.
“I, for my part, am fed up and tired of intelligence always taking precedence over justice,” he said. “The United States has a lot of information about the murder of journalists, including the identity of the masterminds, corrupt officials and people who abuse their power. Surely the search for justice, the fight against impunity demand that this information be made public, ”he said.
While Biden may finally back down on some of his harsh words against the kingdom, Riedel said there would nonetheless be a “big change”, especially in arms sales.
“The Saudis have only belatedly begun to realize that the good old days are coming to an end. I think they are trying to figure out what to do and are particularly concerned that Biden will revive the nuclear deal with Iran, which they completely oppose, ”Riedel said.
Riedel said the change in American administrations comes as Prince Mohammed, known as MBS, seemed increasingly concerned for his own safety and paranoid, perhaps rightly so, of course.
“MBS holds almost all of its meetings in the fantasy city of Neom. Well, there is a reason for that. It is the safest place for him in the kingdom and I think it is a reflection of his very acute concerns. It has alienated a large number of Saudis, ”Riedel said.
The Guardian has been told that several princes of the Bin Jalawi family had recently been placed under house arrest on the orders of the crown prince. While this could not be independently verified, Riedel said that since the family ranked second in prominence only after the Al Saud family, the alleged house arrests were highly significant. A US official said such arrests would be in line with the crown prince’s crackdown on any signs of dissent. The Saudi embassy in London did not respond to a request for comment.
The Saudi crown prince has detained his closest political rival, former Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, in custody since March, as well as the two adult sons of Saad Aljabri, a former intelligence chief known for his close ties to the United States and lives exiled in Canada.
While Biden is not known to have had an especially close relationship with Mohammed bin Nayef, whom he met on a trip to Riyadh in 2011, analysts say they believe the continued incarceration of “MBN” will be one of the major rights issues. raised by the Biden administration.
The Saudi government has never given an official explanation as to why Bin Nayef has been arrested, but a changing list of accusations has been used ranging from attempted coup, addiction, corruption, treason and conspiracy with the Obama administration.
Other cases likely to cause consternation include the recent move by a Saudi court to sentence Walid Fitaihi, a dual American and Saudi national, to six years in prison following his arrest in 2017, despite appeals from the Trump administration. to be released. Fitaihi’s family has claimed that he was tortured while in custody and that the charges against him relate to tweets he posted in support of the Arab Spring, as well as his allegedly unauthorized move to obtain US citizenship.
Another political prisoner, women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul, who is also believed to have been tortured in custody, has recently been tried in a special terrorism court after being detained for two years without charge, in one case. which has drawn criticism from human rights organizations.
Callamard, who will take up a new post as Amnesty International’s director next year, said she was not “naive enough” to believe that Biden would radically transform America’s relationship with Saudi Arabia, but would make moves toward accountability.
“The form, the message, matters. We are talking about a message, it is a small step of responsibility on the part of the United States and its democratic institutions, ”he said.
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