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US bars entry to Saudi diplomat over Khashoggi murder

Khashoggi was killed in October 2018 by Saudi agents [Getty]

Date of publication: 11 December, 2019

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US barred Mohammed Al-Otaibi from entering the country over his role in the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.
A Saudi diplomat who served as Saudi consul general in Istanbul at the time of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi has been barred from entering the US over his alleged role in the killing of the Saudi journalist.

Mohammed Al-Otaibi was notified of the new sanctions on Tuesday, according to State Department officials.

Otaibi previously was the subject of a US asset freeze for his alleged role in Khashoggi's murder.

"The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was a heinous, unacceptable crime," the Department said in a statement, adding that it continued to urge the Saudi government to conduct a "full, fair and transparent" trial to hold accountable those responsible for the journalist's death.

Western governments and the CIA have said they believe Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing.

Saudi officials denied these allegations, insisting he had no role in the murder.

US President Donald Trump has warned that the US must not risk ties with Riyadh over the CIA assessment, which he expressed doubts about.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and US resident, was killed in October 2018 by Saudi agents while in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork ahead of his wedding to his Turkish fiance Hatice Cengiz.

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'Credible evidence'

Last week, Cengiz slammed the international community's passivity towards Saudi Arabia, 14 months after the journalist's murder.

Speaking alongside Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Cengiz deplored that "there has been no significant action by the international community" since a UN report on the murder in June.

"This is not a file that can be closed like this. For me, the murder of Jamal Khashoggi is the most inhuman murder of the modern era," she said. 

"I want it to continue to disturb people. Some people have to lose sleep over it," she added.

The report by Callamard had found "credible evidence" linking Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the killing.

Callamard, who does not speak for the United Nations but reports her findings to it, had called on Secretary General Antonio Guterres to initiate an international criminal investigation into the case.  

"We are calling for an international investigation, that is what I am personally calling for and working towards," Cengiz said. 

Callamard called for a moratorium on exports of surveillance equipment to Saudi Arabia and sanctions targeting senior officials suspected of involvement in the murder, including the Crown Prince. 

"The European Union has been, like the rest of the international community, extremely disappointing in its reactions and actions towards Saudi Arabia," said Callamard, who was in Brussels to meet EU officials.

The expert also reiterated her criticism of the upcoming G20 meeting in Saudi Arabia, which was a "mistake", and called for press freedom and human rights protection to be added to the agenda. 

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