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Visas Of Saudi Officials Revokes By The USA Following The Khashoggi Killing

Khashoggi had gone to the consulate to get documents he needed to marry his fiancee, Turkish national Hatice Cengiz, who waited outside in vain for his return.

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U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to reporters during a news briefing at the State Department in Washington. VOA
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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Tuesday that the United States had “identified at least some” of the Saudi officials involved in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and was revoking their visas.

“These penalties will not be the last word on this matter from the United States. We will continue to explore additional measures to hold those accountable,” Pompeo said. “We’re making very clear that the United States does not tolerate this kind of ruthless action to silence Mr. Khashoggi, a journalist, through violence.”

The visa revocations were the first punitive actions the U.S. has taken against Saudi Arabia since news broke of Khashoggi’s disappearance on Oct. 2.

Pompeo, who made the announcement at the State Department, did not say who or how many Saudi officials would have their visas revoked. Saudi Arabia on Saturday announced it had already arrested 18 Saudis and fired several top intelligence officials in connection with Khashoggi’s death.

The secretary also said the U.S. was considering taking action, such as imposing financial sanctions, under the Magnitsky Act. That law was named for Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died in a Moscow prison after he reported tax fraud involving government officials; it was aimed at punishing officials responsible for his death.

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey. VOA

Earlier Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke for the first time about the Khashoggi case, saying the journalist was “murdered in a ferocious manner,” and contending that Saudi Arabia carried out the killing in its Istanbul consulate in a premeditated plot. He dismissed Riyadh’s claim that “rogue agents” were responsible.

“All evidence gathered shows that Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a savage murder,” Erdogan told the Turkish parliament in Ankara. “To cover up such savagery would hurt the human conscience.”

The Turkish leader said “to blame such an incident on a handful of security and intelligence members would not satisfy us or the international community.”

Erdogan demanded that whoever ordered the killing of Khashoggi “be brought to account,” and that the 18 officials already arrested by Saudi Arabia in connection with the killing stand trial in Istanbul.

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U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey during a bill-signing ceremony at the White House in Washington. VOA

In Washington, President Donald Trump said Tuesday that Saudi authorities had staged “one of the worst cover-ups” in history with their response to the killing of Khashoggi, 59, a U.S.-based Saudi dissident.

“They had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly, and the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

When a reporter asked Trump if Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s de facto leader, should be held accountable, Trump said, “I spoke with the crown prince yesterday, and he strongly said he had nothing to do with this — it was at a lower level.”

Vice President Mike Pence said Erdogan’s assessment of the killing “underscores the determination” of the Trump administration “to find out what happened. The word from President Erdogan this morning that this brutal murder was premeditated, preplanned days in advance, flies in the face of earlier assertions that had been made by the Saudi regime.”

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Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi speaks during a press conference in Manama, Bahrain. VOA

“The world is watching,” Pence said at an event at The Washington Post, where Khashoggi wrote opinion columns that were critical of the Saudi crown prince. “The American people want answers, and we will demand that those answers are forthcoming.”

Erdogan told Turkish lawmakers that “Saudi Arabia has taken an important step by admitting the murder. As of now, we expect of them to openly bring to light those responsible, from the highest ranked to the lowest, and to bring them to justice.” The Turkish president described Khashoggi’s death as a “murder” 15 times in his speech.

Erdogan never mentioned Salman in his speech and did not play an audio recording of the killing that news accounts have cited.

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This image taken from CCTV video obtained by the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet and made available on Oct. 9, 2018 claims to show Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. VOA

Erdogan gave new details surrounding the killing — which involved 15 Saudi agents who started arriving in Turkey on Oct. 1, the day before Khashoggi was killed — while largely confirming earlier news accounts of Khashoggi’s disappearance, including that Saudi agents deployed a body double with Khashoggi’s clothes, glasses and beard to walk out of the consulate to make it appear as if he had left the diplomatic outpost alive.

The Turkish president said that on Oct. 1, a team of Saudi consular staff scouted out two separate locations in a forest outside Istanbul and at Yalova, 90 kilometers south of the city. Turkish authorities have searched the locations, theorizing that Khashoggi’s remains might have been disposed of there, but have not found his body. Erdogan said Saudi agents removed the hard drive from the consulate’s surveillance system.

Saudi officials at first said that Khashoggi had walked out of the consulate and that they did not know his whereabouts. Then they said he died in a fistfight in the consulate. Most recently, the Saudis said Khashoggi was killed in a chokehold when he tried to leave the consulate to call for help.

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Turkish police crime scene investigators leave an underground car park, after looking for possible clues into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, on a vehicle belonging to the Saudi Consulate found by authorities a day earlier, in Istanbul. VOA

“When the murder is so clear,” Erdogan said, “why were so many inconsistent statements made? Why is the body of a person who has officially been accepted as killed still not around?”

Khashoggi had gone to the consulate to get documents he needed to marry his fiancee, Turkish national Hatice Cengiz, who waited outside in vain for his return.

The Turkish leader stressed the need for his police and intelligence services to conduct a thorough probe, both to avoid falsely accusing anyone and to fulfill a responsibility to the international community.

Also Read: Silicon Valley Reconsiders Its Decision to Invest in Saudi Arabia

Since Saudi accounts said a “local collaborator” had disposed of Khashoggi’s remains, Erdogan said, “I am now asking: Who is this local collaborator?”

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel was in Turkey to confer with Turkish officials about their investigation. (VOA)

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Rohingyas Repatriation to Myanmar Scrapped by Bangladesh

Negotiations for repatriation have been in the works for months.

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An elderly Rohingya refugee holds a placard during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, in Bangladesh.VOA

Bangladesh’s plans to begin repatriating Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar Thursday were scrapped because officials were unable to find anyone who wanted to return to the country that has been accused of driving out hundreds of thousands in a campaign of ethnic cleansing.

The refugees “are not willing to go back now,” Refugee Commissioner Abul Kalam told The Associated Press. He said officials “can’t force them to go” but will continue to try to “motivate them so it happens.”

Some people on the government’s repatriation list disappeared into the sprawling refugee camps to avoid being sent home, while others joined a large demonstration against the plan.

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Workers build a Rohingya repatriation center in Gunndum near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. VOA

UN urged a halt to repatriation

More than 700,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh from western Myanmar’s Rakhine state since August 2017 to escape killings and destruction of their villages by the military and Buddhist vigilantes that have drawn widespread condemnation of Myanmar.

The United Nations, whose human rights officials had urged Bangladesh to halt the repatriation process even as its refugee agency workers helped to facilitate it, welcomed Thursday’s development.

Firas Al-Khateeb, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Cox’s Bazar, said it was unclear when the process might begin again.

“We want their repatriation, but it has to be voluntary, safe and smooth,” he said.

Bangladesh officials declined to say whether another attempt at repatriation would be made Friday.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali told reporters in Dhaka late Thursday that “there is no question of forcible repatriation. We gave them shelter, so why should we send them back forcibly?”

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Rohingya refugee children shout slogans during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

Pleading with Rohingya

At the Unchiprang refugee camp, a Bangladeshi refugee official implored the Rohingya on Thursday to return to their country over a loudspeaker.

“We have arranged everything for you, we have six buses here, we have trucks, we have food. We want to offer everything to you. If you agree to go, we’ll take you to the border, to the transit camp,” he said.

“We won’t go!” hundreds of voices, including children’s, chanted in reply.

Some refugees on the repatriation lists, which authorities say were drawn up with assistance from the UNHCR, said they don’t want to go back.

‘I don’t want to go back’

At the Jamtoli refugee camp, one of the sprawling refugee settlements near the city of Cox’s Bazar, 25-year-old Setara said she and her two children, age 4 and 7, were on a repatriation list, but her parents were not. She said she had never asked to return to Myanmar, and that she had sent her children to a school run by aid workers Thursday morning as usual.

“They killed my husband; now I live here with my parents,” said Setara, who only gave one name. “I don’t want to go back.”

She said that other refugees on the repatriation list had fled to other camps, hoping to disappear amid the crowded lanes of refugees, aid workers and Bangladeshi soldiers, which on Thursday were bustling with commerce and other activity.

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Rohingya refugees shout slogans during a protest against the repatriation process at Unchiprang refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh. VOA

Plan to return 150 a day

Bangladesh had planned to send an initial group of 2,251 back from mid-November at a rate of 150 per day.

Myanmar officials, speaking late Thursday in the capital, Naypyitaw, said they were ready to receive the refugees. Despite those assurances, human rights activists said conditions were not yet safe for the Rohingya to go back.

The exodus began after Myanmar security forces launched a brutal crackdown following attacks by an insurgent group on guard posts. The scale, organization and ferocity of the crackdown led the U.N. and several governments to accuse Myanmar of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

Most people in Buddhist-majority Myanmar do not accept that the Rohingya Muslims are a native ethnic group, viewing them as “Bengalis” who entered illegally from Bangladesh, even though generations of Rohingya have lived in Myanmar. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, as well as access to education and hospitals.

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Rohingya refugees cross floodwaters at Thangkhali refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district. VOA

Refugee camps bleak

The refugees survived the ransacking of villages, rapes and killings in Myanmar, but for many, life in Bangladesh’s squalid refugee camps has been bleak.

The refugees who’ve arrived in the last year joined a wave of 250,000 Rohingya Muslims who escaped forced labor, religious persecution and violent attacks from Buddhist mobs in Myanmar during the early 1990s.

Access to education and employment has been far from assured.

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who hopes to retain power in December elections, has repeatedly complained that hosting more than a million Rohingya is taxing local resources.

Negotiations for repatriation have been in the works for months, but plans last January to begin sending refugees back were called off amid concerns among aid workers and Rohingya that their return would be met with violence.

Foreign leaders, including U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, criticized Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi this week on the sidelines of a summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore for her handling of the Rohingya crisis.

Also Read: Rohingya Muslims Remain Fearful Due To Forceful Repatriation

But on Thursday, Pence said that U.S. officials were “encouraged to hear that” the repatriation process would begin.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country would continue working with international partners including the U.N. “to ensure that the Rohingya themselves are part of any decisions on their future.” (VOA)