US report avoids linking MBS to Khashoggi murder

US report avoids linking MBS to Khashoggi murder

A US State Department report has labelled journalistJamal Khashoggi's murder a human rights violation committed by Saudi Arabiangovernment agents, but has made no mention whether Crown Prince Mohammed binSalman played a role in the Washington Post columnist's death.

The annual report, details human rights abuses around theworld, under a mandate set by Congress in foreign aid and trade laws. It wasreleased on Wednesday, CNN reported.

The State Department's top human rights official declinedto say what role, if any, the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA) assessment ofthe case played in the account of Khashoggi's death.

The CIA had concluded that the Crown Prince, also knownas MBS, directed Khashoggi's murder, according to multiple lawmakers briefed bythe agency's Director Gina Haspel.

Ambassador Michael Kozak of the State Department's Bureauof Democracy, Human Rights and Labour did not answer when asked why the reportfailed to mention Bin Salman in connection to Khashoggi's death, insteadtalking about an ongoing Saudi investigation and saying, "we're sort of inthe middle of that movie".

He also refused to say whether the State Department hadreviewed the CIA assessment on Khashoggi's killing.

"I'm not going to give you an answer aboutSaudi," Kozak said. "But I can say that we, I mean, we routinelyreview intelligence information as part of our daily job."

In its account of Khashoggi's death, the State Departmentreport said that Saudi government agents "carried out the killing ofjournalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul,Turkey, on October 2." Khashoggi was a fierce critic of the Crown Prince.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman "pledged to hold allindividuals involved accountable, regardless of position or rank" and 11suspects had been indicted by the Kingdom's public prosecutor's office, thereport stated.

The Saudi government has not publicly named any of those11 suspects or provided any detailed account of where its investigation stands.

"In other cases, the government did not punishofficials accused of committing human rights abuses, contributing to anenvironment of impunity," the report said.

Kozak defended the omission of the Crown Prince's name inconnection with Khashoggi. "We can all have our suspicions orspeculations, but our effort is fact-driven rather than opinion-driven."

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo singled out four countries– Iran, South Sudan, Nicaragua and China – in brief remarks on the report.

China "is in a league of its own when it comes tohuman rights violations," Pompeo said. He pointed to the Chinesegovernment's repressive campaign against Muslim minority groups.

"Today, more than 1 million Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhsand other Muslims are interned in re-education camps designed to erase theirreligious and ethnic identities," he said.

"The government also is increasing its persecutionagainst Christians, Tibetans and anyone who espouses different views from thoseof government – or advocates change in government."

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