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Trump: Saudi Crown Prince Bears Ultimate Responsibility for Dissident's Killing


FILE - President of Human Right Association (IHD) Eren Keskin (R) speaks to journalists during a demonstration in front of the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, in support of missing journalist and Riyadh critic Jamal Khashoggi, Oct. 9, 2018.

U.S. President Donald Trump says he wants to believe Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that rogue agents killed Saudi dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but that ultimately he bears responsibility for the death that occurred inside Riyadh's Istanbul consulate.

Trump told The Wall Street Journal, "Well, the prince is running things over there more so at this stage. He's running things and so if anybody were going to be, it would be him."

The U.S. leader's latest assessment of the death of Khashoggi came after he told reporters Tuesday that Saudi authorities had staged "one of the worst cover-ups" in history with their response to the killing of Khashoggi, a critic of the crown prince in columns he wrote for The Washington Post.

"They had a very bad original concept. It was carried out poorly, and the cover-up was one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups," Trump said. "The cover-up was horrible. The execution was horrible. But there should have never been an execution or a cover-up because it should have never happened."

U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey during a bill-signing ceremony at the White House in Washington, Oct. 23, 2018.
U.S. President Donald Trump talks to reporters about the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey during a bill-signing ceremony at the White House in Washington, Oct. 23, 2018.

On Wednesday, Britain joined the U.S. in revoking visas of those suspected of killing the 59-year-old Khashoggi, while the United States and several Western governments weigh further action against Riyadh, including possibly cutting off arms sales.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the revocation of the visas "will not be the last word on this matter from the United States. We will continue to explore additional measures to hold those accountable. We're making very clear that the United States does not tolerate this kind of ruthless action to silence Mr. Khashoggi, a journalist, through violence."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has already cut off future weapons sales to Riyadh and is considering whether to halt delivery of arms already approved for export but not yet sent to Saudi Arabia. British Prime Minister Theresa May said its Saudi arms sales were "under review," a stance similar to that expressed by Australia.

But Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Madrid would fulfill its commitment to sell Riyadh 400 precision bombs despite his "dismay" over the "terrible murder" of Khashoggi.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Wednesday that those responsible for Khashoggi's killing will not "escape justice."

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, Oct. 23, 2018.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of parliament from his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara, Turkey, Oct. 23, 2018.

Speaking in Ankara, Erdogan said Turkey will "not allow the murder to be covered up" and will be transparent in sharing any evidence it uncovers. Turkish authorities said Saudi Arabia has now granted police permission to search a well in the garden of the consulate where Khashoggi was killed, after Riyadh had previously refused to allow a search.

Erdogan on Tuesday described for parliament what he said was a premeditated plot by Saudi Arabia to kill Khashoggi when he visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to get documents he needed to marry his fiancee, Turkish national Hatice Cengiz.

Erdogan dismissed Saudi Arabia's claim that "rogue agents" were responsible.

"All evidence gathered shows that Jamal Khashoggi was the victim of a savage murder," Erdogan said. "To cover up such savagery would hurt the human conscience."

The Turkish leader said "to blame such an incident on a handful of security and intelligence members would not satisfy us or the international community."

Erdogan told Turkish lawmakers that "Saudi Arabia has taken an important step by admitting the murder. As of now, we expect of them to openly bring to light those responsible, from the highest ranked to the lowest, and to bring them to justice." The Turkish president described Khashoggi's death as a "murder" 15 times in his speech.

Erdogan never mentioned Mohammed bin Salman in his speech and did not play an audio of the killing that news accounts have cited.

Erdogan gave new details surrounding the killing that involved 15 Saudi agents who started arriving in Turkey the day before Khashoggi was killed, while largely confirming earlier news accounts of Khashoggi's disappearance, including that Saudi agents deployed a body double with Khashoggi's clothes, glasses and beard to walk out of the consulate to make it appear he had left the diplomatic outpost alive.

Saudi officials at first said that Khashoggi walked out of the consulate and that they did not know his whereabouts. Then they said he died in a fistfight in the consulate. Most recently, the Saudis said Khashoggi was killed in a chokehold when he tried to leave the consulate to call for help.

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