WASHINGTON: The Treasury Department has designated 17 Saudi Arabians for involvement in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, imposing sanctions that freeze any U.S. assets and prohibit any Americans from dealings with them.
All of the 17, Treasury said, were “involved in the abhorrent killing” and “targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States.” It said the United States would continue working on the case to determine if others were also responsible.
“The government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in the statement.
The Treasury announcement followed the release in Riyadh of a statement saying 11 people had been indicted for the crime, which took place Oct. 2 at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The Saudi prosecutor said authorities would seek the death penalty against five of those indicted.
Neither statement implicated Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Turkey has indirectly accused of responsibility for Khashoggi’s death. A spokesman for the Saudi prosecutor, speaking at a news conference in Riyadh, said the crown prince had no knowledge of the operation.
Among the differences between the U.S. and Saudi statements issued Thursday, Treasury’s account appeared to indicate a planned killing, while the Saudi prosecutor said the decision to kill Khashoggi was made on the spot by one of the agents who had been sent to bring him back to Saudi Arabia.
The prosecutor’s version of events was similar to an earlier Saudi statement saying that the agents had been ordered only to persuade or force Khashoggi, a contributing columnist for The Washington Post who has written critically of the ruling monarchy, to return to Saudi Arabia.
The original repatriation order, it said, was issued by Ahmed al-Assiri, a former deputy head of intelligence and close aide to Mohammed. The prosecutor said that Saud al-Qahtani, another senior adviser to the crown prince, was also involved in planning Khashoggi’s return.
The decision to kill him, Saudi prosecutor Saud al Mojab concluded, was made by a minor official, ostensibly one of the Saudi agents on the ground in Turkey. The statement said Khashoggi was killed during a fight with the agents, who administered a lethal injection.
While saying both Assiri and Qahtani were involved in the planning, the statement did not say whether they were among those indicted. No other names were provided.
The Treasury statement names Qahtani, but not Assiri, and additionally lists Saudi Counsul General Mohammed al-Otaibi and Maher Mutreb as among those sanctioned. The other names are believed to be additional Saudi agents who were part of the hit squad sent to Istanbul.