US revokes 21 Saudi visas over Khashoggi deathtext_fields
Washington: In its first, careful steps toward punishing the Saudis involved in the death of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the US administration has revoked 21 visas of Riyadh men linked to the murder, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said.
It was the first concrete step by the Donald Trump administration after the disclosure of Khashoggi's death in the Saudi consulate in Turkey's Istanbul, Time reported.
Pompeo did not reveal the exact number but the State Department told the media that 21 Saudis were under the visa penalties, Xinhua news agency said.
"We have identified at least some of the individuals responsible, including those in the intelligence services, the Royal Court, the Foreign Ministry, and other Saudi ministries who we suspect to have a hand in the killing," Pompeo told the media on Tuesday.
Pompeo added that the US would "continue to explore additional measures to hold those responsible accountable" for the heinous murder and cover-up later of the Washington Post columnist.
Top US diplomat revealed that the State Department was also reviewing the applicability of Global Magnitsky sanctions -- a penalty punishing those responsible for severe human rights violations.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday criticized Saudi Arabia, saying that they orchestrated a "cover-up" of the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi but declaring that he will leave to Congress the possible US response in the matter.
"They had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly, and the cover-up was one of the worst in the history of cover-ups," said Trump in the Oval Office in response to a reporter's question about how the killing could have occurred, Efe reporte.
"Whoever thought of that idea, I think is in big trouble. And they should be in big trouble," the president said, referring to the presumed plan to murder Khashoggi.
Pompeo, however, also repeated that the "US still considers Saudi Arabia as a 'strong' ally".
Khashoggi was missing since he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. The Saudi authorities said last week that Khashoggi died in a "brawl" in its consulate.
The New York Times reported that the journalist was killed within minutes after his entering the Saudi office. His dismembered body parts have been recovered from the Saudi consul general home, a UK-based broadcaster said.
According to Sky News, the 59-year-old Washington Post contributor's body had been "cut up" and his face "disfigured", with the remains found in the garden of the consul general's home.
The development came shortly after Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan accused Saudi Arabia of plotting Khashoggi's murder. He said there can be no cover up in the case and asked Riyadh to extradite 18 suspects.
He said the killing was planned in advance and called on Saudi Arabia to reveal more details, including where Khashoggi's body was.
‘Why has the body of someone who was officially said to be killed not been found yet?’ asked Erdogan.
However, the President did not produce video or audio evidence his government allegedly possessed. Turkish officials earlier said they had recordings confirming that Khashoggi was tortured, killed, had his fingers cut off and was dismembered.
Khashoggi, a fierce critic of Riyadh's human rights violations and of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's policies -- disappeared after entering the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul on October 2 for paperwork needed for his planned marriage.
Earlier, there were reports that Khashoggi's severed fingers were taken back to Saudi Arabia and presented to the Crown Prince as a "macabre trophy" after the murder.