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By Abigail Williams
The State Department on Monday publicly barred 16 individuals from entering the U.S. for their roles in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“In cases where the Secretary of State has credible information that officials of foreign governments have been involved in significant corruption or gross violations of human rights,” the statement read, “those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States.”
Khashoggi, a permanent U.S. resident and vocal critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was murdered and dismembered Oct. 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The designations from the State Department follow the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s detention of at least 10 individuals associated with women’s rights advocates in the kingdom’s biggest crackdown since Khashoggi’s death, according to Human Rights Groups. The State Department confirmed that two U.S. citizens were among those arrested.
Among those banned Monday from entering the U.S. is Saud al-Qahtani, an adviser to bin Salman who the CIA suspects organized the assassination of Khashoggi.
In November, Al-Qahtani and 16 others were designated by the State Department under the Global Magnitsky Act along. All but one were again named in Monday’s designation. The U.S. had previously also revoked the visas for 21 unnamed Saudi individuals associated with the murder last October.
The Trump administration has faced criticism for its defense of the U.S.-Saudi relationship despite conclusions by both U.S. intelligence and the U.S. Senate that the Crown Prince known as MBS is ultimately responsible for Khashoggi’s death.
“King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman vigorously deny any knowledge of the planning or execution of the murder of Mr. Khashoggi,” President Donald Trump wrote last November. “Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event — maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!”
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal the same month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo referred to concerns expressed by congressional members as “caterwauling.”
Eleven of the 21 individuals originally detained by the Saudi government in Khashoggi’s death are on trial in the Kingdom. However, the trials proceed in secrecy, and the names and charges have yet to be released, according to U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary killings, Agnes Callamard.
Callamard, who leads the U.N. investigation into the murder of Khashoggi, is calling for the trials to be made public.
“The publicity of hearings ensures the transparency of proceedings and thus provides an important safeguard for the interest of the individual and of society at large,” Callmard argued in late February.
The findings of the U.N. investigation are to be presented in June to the U.N. Human Rights Council.