Senior US Official: Saudi Version of Khashoggi Murder 'Not Credible'

Erika Holt
January 7, 2019

"To really push the two points of accountability and credibility, which is that the Saudis should have a credible narrative for what happened", said the official, who briefed reporters on Pompeo's trip.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will arrive in Amman this week on the first leg of a tour of eight Middle East capitals in an effort to shore up crucial alliances.

Mr. Pompeo wants both the perpetrators and the planners of the killing to be identified by the Saudis and appropriate punishments are meted out, the official added.

The kingdom has come under heavy worldwide pressure, including from the United States, its closest ally, whose Senate has voted in favor of a resolution blaming the crown prince for the murder.

Khashoggi, a journalist with The Washington Post, was murdered in the Saudi consular premises in Istanbul in October.

A key stop will be in Riyadh, whose relations with the U.S. have been strained by the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul a year ago, which USA intelligence believes was directed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite his denials. The State Department said in a statement that the top diplomat will also "seek an update on the status of the investigation into the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi".

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Earlier this week, Saudi Arabia held the initial hearing in the murder case, wherein the public prosecutor sought the death penalty for five of the 11 accused for their alleged direct involvement in the killing of the scribe.

Donald Trump has stood by the crown prince despite the CIA's assessment.

In his first Middle East visit since President Donald Trump's announcement that he intends to withdraw United States forces from Syria, Pompeo leaves on Tuesday for an eight-day trip to Jordan, Egypt, Bahrain, the UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait.

A spokeswoman for the UN's top human rights official, Michelle Bachelet, said that the trial in Riyadh does not meet the requirements of an independent and worldwide enquiry.

At the same time, Washington wants its Middle East allies to shoulder more of the burden in maintaining regional security and stability, amid fears of a resurgence of extremist groups like Al Qaeda and Daesh as USA forces pull back.

"We may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr Jamal Khashoggi".

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