Treasury announces sanctions on Saudi officials following Khashoggi report
The sanctions target Ahmad Hassan Mohammed al Asiri, Saudi Arabia’s former deputy head of the General Intelligence Presidency and Saudi Arabia’s Rapid Intervention Force (RIF) over their roles in Khashoggi’s killing in Istanbul in 2018. The Treasury Department said al Asiri was the “ringleader” of the assassination and coordinated the killing with Riyadh, and several members of the hit squad that murdered Khashoggi were members of the RIF.
Khashoggi was a prominent critic of Riyadh and columnist for The Washington Post who lived in Virginia.
“Those involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi must be held accountable. With this action, Treasury is sanctioning Saudi Arabia’s Rapid Intervention Force and a senior Saudi official who was directly involved in Jamal Khashoggi’s murder,” said Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
“The United States stands united with journalists and political dissidents in opposing threats of violence and intimidation," she continued. "We will continue to defend the freedom of expression, which is the bedrock of a free society.”
Friday’s sanctions freeze any assets in the U.S. owned by al Asiri or the RIF and bar anyone in the U.S. from doing business with them. The authority of the sanctions is based on the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which seeks to punish those who violate human rights.
The sanctions come shortly after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a government report saying that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved Khashoggi’s murder. The conclusion was based on “the Crown Prince's control of decisionmaking in the Kingdom, 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.”
Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he was trying to obtain documents for a marriage license. Turkish authorities have said they believe Khashoggi was strangled upon his arrival and later dismembered in an attempt to hide his body.
The release of the report was highly anticipated, particularly given President Biden’s stated desire to “recalibrate” the relationship with Saudi Arabia.
The report’s release, which was later accompanied by the sanctions and visa restrictions against 76 Saudis believed to be engaged in threatening dissidents overseas, marks a departure from the Trump administration, which refused to say in public that the crown prince was behind Khashoggi’s murder.