Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the 2018 operation to “capture or kill” Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to a declassified U.S. intelligence report published Friday. In October 2018, Khashoggi was killed and dismembered inside a Saudi consulate in Turkey, sparking international outrage against Saudi Arabia.
In the report, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) cited bin Salman’s control of decision-making in Saudi Arabia, plus the direct involvement of a key advisor and members of the 35-year-old crown prince’s protective detail, in the operation that killed Khashoggi.
“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the four-page summary of the intelligence community’s findings reads.
“We base this assessment on the Crown Prince’s control of decision-making in the Kingdom since 2017, the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammad bin Salman’s protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince’s support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi,” the report continues.
“Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorization,” the report also said.
The U.S.-based Washington Post contributor Khashoggi, who had criticized the Saudi royal family, entered a Saudi consulate in Turkey on October 2, 2018 and never left. He was murdered by a group of assassins, who subsequently dismembered his body. His remains were never found.
According to the ODNI report, around the time of Khashoggi’s murder, “the Crown Prince probably fostered an environment in which aides were afraid that failure to complete assigned tasks might result in him firing or arresting them. This suggests that the aides were unlikely to question Muhammad bin Salman’s orders or undertake sensitive actions without his consent.”
Furthermore, the document concludes that the “Crown Prince viewed Khashoggi as a threat to the Kingdom and broadly supported using violent measures if necessary to silence him.”
“Although Saudi officials had pre-planned an unspecified operation against Khashoggi,” the document added, “we do not know how far in advance Saudi officials decided to harm him.”
On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced visa restrictions on 76 Saudi officials involved in Khashoggi’s death and the harassment of other journalists and political dissidents abroad.
“The murder of journalist and U.S. lawful permanent resident Jamal Khashoggi shocked the world. Starting today, we will have a new global policy bearing his name to impose visa restrictions on those who engage in extraterritorial attacks on journalists or activists,” Blinken said in a statement.
The visa restrictions affect 76 Saudi officials “believed to have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas, including but not limited to the Khashoggi killing” and at the direction of the Saudi government, the statement added.
Notably, President Joe Biden in his first call with Saudi Arabia’s 85-year-old King Salman on Thursday “affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law,” according to a readout from the White House. Though, Khashoggi’s name does not pop up in the readout.
Biden’s phone call followed White House press secretary on Tuesday saying: “On Saudi Arabia, I would say we’ve made clear from the beginning that we are going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia.”
After previously denying knowledge of Khashoggi’s death, Saudi authorities at the time claimed that he got into a fight inside the consulate and died in the clash, with the crown prince telling Bloomberg that the journalist had left the consulate shortly after arriving in stark contradiction to reports. Eventually, authorities said the journalist was killed in a “rogue operation,” though they denied that bin Salman was involved.
In a June 2019 report, a United Nations investigator concluded that Khashoggi was “the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law.”
Less than two month’s after Khashoggi’s death, then-President Donald Trump doubted bin Salman’s involvement in the journalist’s death at the time, saying, “we may never know all of the facts surrounding” Khashoggi’s death, but “our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
“It could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” he also said.
Trump was widely criticized at the time for his seemingly conciliatory stance.
You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.
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REPORT: China has vast network of covert police stations around the world
China has a vast network of covert police stations abroad, according to a recent report by Safeguard Defenders, an NGO that focuses on human rights violations in China and other Asian countries. These police stations serve consular functions, but are also used by China to crack down on what the CCP deems “illegal” activity of Chinese nationals abroad. The police stations include at least 38 run by the Fuzhou City police, and 22 run by the Qingtian City police. Cities housing these police stations include New York, Toronto (which has three stations), London (two), Paris (three), Buenos Aires, Rio De Janeiro, and Tokyo.
Key findings of the report are below.
“Persuaded to return”
According to China, China has “persuaded to return [to China]” 230,000 Chinese nationals living aboard from April 2021 to July 2022 alone to face charges of fraud and telecommunications fraud. A Yangxia police station set up in Mozambique, for example, persuaded a Chinese national to return to China after being accused of stealing money from his employer. Chinese authorities also put pressure on the accused family to convince the accused to surrender.
Roughly 54,000 Chinese nationals were persuaded to return from northern Myanmar alone, in the first nine months of 2021. In July 2022, the government of Wenchang City warned that its citizens living in northern Myanmar must check in with their local police stations or face multiple penalties including blocking their children from attending urban schools back in China. Similarly, in February 2022, the government of Liayang City stated that Chinese “illegally staying” in northern Myanmar must return or the bank accounts of their immediate family members could be frozen.
The Nine Forbidden Countries
China has claimed that nine countries contain serious levels of fraud and telecom fraud perpetrated by Chinese nationals. Since November 2021, China has declared that Chinese citizens living in these nine countries must return to China immediately unless they have an “emergency reason” or a “strict necessity” to travel or stay in those countries. Those countries are: Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, the UAE, and Turkey. However, the report questions whether these countries are truly awash in such fraud, as most of China’s oversees police stations are in the West, and only one of the nine countries (Cambodia) has such a police station. Chinese staying in the nine forbidden countries, as well as threats to family members as stated above, creates a “guilt-by-association” atmosphere intended to repatriate the Chinese nationals.
According to the report, Chinese police stations abroad serve to bypass “bilateral extradition treaties or other mechanisms of judicial cooperation” to cooperate with CCP-linked NGOs which effectively “[sets] up an alternative policing and judicial system within third countries.” Instead of using international judicial cooperation, which establishes due process, the presumption of innocence, and the right to a fair trial, China uses the above “persuade-to-return” methods and transnational police stations to circumvent international law and coerce Chinese nationals to return to China for trials. These policies show the power of China’s long-arm oppression over its own subjects.
You can follow Steve Postal on Twitter @HebraicMosaic
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