The fiancée of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi said Monday that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman should be punished “without delay” following the release of a U.S. intelligence report that found the powerful Saudi royal had approved the killing.
"If the crown prince is not punished, it will forever signal that the main culprit can get away with murder which will endanger us all and be a stain on our humanity," Hatice Cengiz said in a statement posted on Twitter early Monday. "It will be the greatest shame for humanity if justice is in the end denied."
Cengiz, a Turkish national, was responding to a long-awaited American intelligence report made public Friday that concluded Salman, the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, had approved an operation in Istanbul to capture or kill Khashoggi.
"We base this assessment on the Crown Prince's control of decision making in the Kingdom," the report said, "the direct involvement of a key adviser and members of Muhammed bin Salman's protective detail in the operation, and the Crown Prince's support for using violent measures to silence dissidents abroad, including Khashoggi."
While the overall conclusion of the report was first reported two years ago, President Joe Biden declassified it, reversing a decision by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump.
On Friday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken also announced that 76 Saudi individuals alleged to have harassed dissidents were subject to visa restrictions, and the Department of the Treasury sanctioned the Rapid Intervention Force, or RIF, and a former deputy head of Saudi intelligence.
“Those involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi must be held accountable,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said. “The United States stands united with journalists and political dissidents in opposing threats of violence and intimidation.”
However, in an interview with The Mehdi Hasan Show on Sunday and in her public statement Monday, Cengiz expressed her frustration that further action had not been taken.
“I want to thank Mr. President Biden and his administration for releasing this report,” Cengiz told Hasan. “I think that it is a really important and huge step right now, but it is not enough, without taking an action it will be meaningless.”
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"We have the truth now ... now it is time to take action," she said.
Cengiz did not specify how she would like the Biden administration to hold the crown prince accountable. In her written statement, she called on the crown prince to be punished and for world leaders to rethink whether they are prepared to shake hands with "a person whose culpability as a murderer has been proven, but not yet punished."
Asked by Hasan what message she would like to send the crown prince, Cengiz said: “He will never get away with it and it will haunt him for his life.”
Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post and a permanent resident of the U.S., was killed and dismembered by a team of intelligence operatives with close ties to the crown prince in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. His remains have never been found.
In 2019, Cengiz told NBC News that she had moved to London to distance herself from the "scene of the crime" in Istanbul, and to learn English. It remains unclear if she still lives in the city. Her Twitter profile says she is a researcher interested in Omani culture and practices, based between Turkey and Oman.
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement via the country’s state news agency on Friday saying the Saudi government “categorically rejects the abusive and incorrect conclusions" in the report about the kingdom’s leadership.
“The Kingdom condemned this heinous crime and its leadership took the necessary steps to ensure that such an unfortunate incident would not be repeated in the future,” it added.
The crown prince has said the killing was carried out without his knowledge, but in a 2019 interview with PBS' "Frontline” he said, "I get all the responsibility, because it happened under my watch."
That year, eight men were also convicted of Khashoggi's murder in a Saudi Arabian court — a trial called a farce by many international observers.
A former longtime Saudi Ambassador to Washington, Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, told Lebanese news agency ASAS Monday that “the issue of the Khashoggi murder is closed.”
The former ambassador said the CIA could not confirm the intention behind the killing and said the kingdom had admitted the moral responsibility of Crown Prince Mohammed in the case.
“There was a trial that resulted in a conviction and other acquittals," he told the Lebanese news agency. “The crime hurt all Saudis,” he added.