Seventeen Saudi officials are being sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury as a result of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder last month, Washington announced Thursday.
The move was President Donald Trump’s first since the journalist’s death and targeted the 15 members of the assassination team believed responsible for murdering Khashoggi, a former official and Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s (MBS) right hand Saud al-Qahtani, and Saudi Consul General Mohammed Alotaibi.
In a statement, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said, “These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions.”
“The Government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists,” Mnuchin said.
Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor’s office said Thursday that it is seeking the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects charged in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, while at the same time exonerating MBS.
The deputy prosecutor Shaalan al-Shaalan told reporters that Khashoggi was killed by lethal injection after a struggle in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, but that the crown prince was unaware of the operation.
However, a suspicious phone call recording shared with Gina Haspel, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States, is regarded by intelligence officials as one of the strongest links of evidence connecting MBS with the murder.
The crown prince was not mentioned by name in the recording but U.S. intelligence officials believe that he has been referred to in the phone call by Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, one of the 15 Saudi officials sent to Istanbul the day Khashoggi was murdered in the Saudi consulate.
Khashoggi, a dissident journalist from Saudi Arabia went into a self-imposed exile after the crackdown on dissent started by MBS. He went into Saudi consulate on Oct. 2 and was murdered there by Saudi officials.