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US Sanctions 17 Saudi Nationals Over Jamal Khashoggi’s Killing

The United States sanctioned 17 Saudi nationals Thursday in connection with the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The announcement came hours after Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said he will seek the death penalty for five suspects among 11 charged in the killing of The Washington Post columnist last month in Istanbul.

Among those sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department is Saud Al-Qahtani, a former senior adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The sanctions immediately froze the U.S. assets of the 17 individuals and prohibit Americans from doing business with them.

The sanctions were brought under the Magnitsky Act, a global anti-corruption and human rights law. The sanctions won’t directly affect the crown prince.

“The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions. The Government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists.”

Saud Al-Mojeb, the kingdom’s public prosecutor, said his office will seek capital punishment for five of the Saudi nationals who confessed to Khashoggi’s murder.

He said the most senior official behind Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 is Ahmad al-Assiri, a former deputy intelligence chief.

Al-Assiri was arrested and fired for ordering Khashoggi’s forced return to Saudi Arabia, an operation that Riyadh tried to characterize as a botched rendition by rogue operatives. Al-Mojeb did not say whether Al-Assiri faces the death penalty. He said 21 people are in custody and 11 have been indicted in connection with the case.

Turkey said it has audio evidence that Khashoggi’s murder was sanctioned at the highest level in Saudi Arabia, probably in coordination with the Saudi crown prince, the nation’s de facto ruler and a close U.S. ally.

Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau became the first Western leader to confirm that Turkey shared this evidence with other countries’ intelligence agencies. President Donald Trump acknowledged its existence but has not said whether he’s heard it. The recording was shared last month with CIA Director Gina Haspel.

Al-Mojeb did not address the recording and requested only that Turkish authorities release additional information about their investigation. He said Khashoggi’s murderers drugged and killed the writer inside the consulate before dismembering the body and handing it over for disposal by an unidentified local collaborator.

After Al-Mojeb’s remarks, Turkey released a statement urging Saudi Arabia to reveal who ordered Khashoggi’s killing. It called the prosecutor’s comments “unsatisfactory” and insisted that the suspects be extradited to Turkey for trial.

Khashoggi’s remains are unaccounted for more than a month after he entered the consulate to obtain legal documents needed to marry his Turkish fiancee.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he pressed the Saudis for answers over the case and told Salman in a phone call that “the United States will hold all of those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi accountable.” In a statement Thursday about the sanctions, Pompeo said, “The State Department will continue to seek all relevant facts, consult Congress and work with other nations to hold accountable those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.”

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