Khashoggi ban: US to impose visa ban on 76 Saudi residents | Freedom of the Press Information
The administration of the President of the United States, Joe Biden, announced on Friday a visa ban against 76 Saudi Arabians for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018 and announced sanctions, but Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is not on the sanctions list.
In a statement on Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said “the world is appalled” by Khashoggi’s murder and announced a visa-restriction policy named after the well-known Saudi journalist and dissident.
“The Khashoggi ban enables the State Department to impose visa restrictions on persons who have been directly involved in serious extraterritorial activities against dissidents on behalf of a foreign government, including those who suppress, harass, monitor and threaten or journalists or others who act as Dissidents are perceived for their work or engage in such activities in relation to the families or other close co-workers of these persons, “Blinken said in the statement.
“For safety reasons for everyone within our borders, perpetrators acting on behalf of a foreign government against dissidents should not be allowed to reach American soil,” added Blinken.
Biden’s actions in the first few weeks of his administration appear to be aimed at fulfilling campaign promises to realign Saudi relations after critics accused his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, of giving the Arab ally and major oil producer a passport for grave human rights abuses.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement “The world was appalled by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi” and imposed visa restrictions on Saudis allegedly threatening dissidents abroad [Manuel Balce Ceneta/Pool via Reuters]Blinken said the moves will reinforce global condemnation of Khashoggi’s murder and serve to “crack down on governments going beyond their borders to threaten and attack journalists and alleged dissidents for the exercise of their fundamental freedoms”.
A senior official in the Biden administration, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity, said the approach aims to create a new starting point for relations with the kingdom without disrupting a core relationship in the Middle East. Relations were strained for years by the war in Yemen and the assassination of a Saudi consulate by Khashoggi, an American who wrote columns for the Washington Post.
Importantly, the decisions are aimed at maintaining a working relationship with the crown prince, despite the fact that U.S. intelligence concluded that it approved the operation to capture or kill Khashoggi.
“The goal is to recalibrate [in ties] – no break. That’s because of the important interests we share, “said the senior Biden administrator.
The 59-year-old Khashoggi was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018 and killed by a team of activists linked to the Crown Prince. Then they dismembered his body. His remains were never found.
The US Treasury Department has imposed sanctions on former Saudi Deputy Chief of Intelligence Ahmed al-Asiri and the Saudi Royal Guard’s rapid intervention force known as the “Tiger Squad” or “Firqat el-Nemr” statement.
The Rapid Intervention Force (RIF) was highlighted in the released U.S. Intelligence Report for its role in the Khashoggi assassination. The force “exists to defend the Crown Prince, only responds to him, and has participated directly in previous dissident suppression operations in the kingdom and abroad,” the report said.
The visa ban will also be selectively applied to family members, officials said.
“People from Saudi Arabia will be in this first installment. But then it’s really a new global tool, ”a second US official told Reuters.
Monitoring of human rights
In addition, in its annual human rights report, the US State Department will begin documenting programs by Saudi Arabia and other countries that monitor, harass or target dissidents and journalists.
Riyadh finally admitted that Khashoggi was killed in a failed extradition operation “rogue” but denied any involvement of the Crown Prince. Five men who received the death penalty for murder were sentenced to 20 years in prison after being forgiven by Khashoggi’s family.
Biden administration officials say the sanctions and visa bans decisions will send a clear message about how the US plans to view future US-Saudi Arabia relations.
It will also allow the US to continue to maintain a working relationship with the Crown Prince, the 35-year-old de facto ruler of the country.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has already held talks with him.
When asked about a debate about sanctions being imposed on the Crown Prince, the first US official said that the US has generally not imposed sanctions “against the highest leadership of the countries.”
“We really do [came to] the unanimous conclusion that there are only other, more effective means to solve these problems in the future, ”the official said.
Biden announced earlier this month that he would end US support for a Saudi Arabia-led military campaign in Yemen and called for an end to the more than six-year war, widely viewed as a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
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