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Khashoggi killing: Saudi prosecutor seeks death penalty for five suspects

Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor has recommended the death penalty for five of the suspects charged in the murder case of dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi. However, he denied Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's involvement. Saud al-Mojeb, the kingdom's top prosecutor, announced on Thursday that he was recommending the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects who have been charged with ordering and carrying out the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. He did not name the suspects. In total, 21 people have been arrested in connection with the case. Crown Prince bin Salman exonerated Khashoggi, a regular contributor to US newspaper The Washington Post, was a staunch critic of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. His murder caused international outrage, and many believe it could not have been carried out without bin Salman's knowledge. The prosecutor, however, claimed the crown prince was not involved in the killing. He said the highest-ranking member of the Saudi leadership implicated in the operation was former deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri, who has since been fired for ordering Khashoggi's forced return. A spokesman for the prosecution told reporters that plans to assassinate Khashoggi were set in motion on September 29. "The crime included a fight and injecting the citizen Khashoggi with a drug overdose that led to his death," the official said. The body was dismembered and handed over to a local collaborator, he added. He did not give any details on the location of the body. Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to get paperwork for his upcoming wedding. His fiancée raised the alarm when he did not return. After weeks of denials and under growing international pressure, Riyadh finally admittedthat Khashoggi was killed in the consulate in a "rogue" operation. US issues sanctions On Thursday, US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced that the US was placing harsh economic sanctions on 17 Saudis for their alleged involvement in the Khashoggi murder. In a statement, Mnuchin said: "The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi. These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions." Three of the individuals targeted in Thursday's sanctions were Saud Al-Qahtani and Maher Mutreb, both of whom are top aides to Salman, and Mohammed Alotaibi, consul general at the Istanbul consulate at the time Khashoggi was murdered. The US treasury secretary said Qahtani "was part of the planning and execution of the operation" to kill Khashoggi. The secretary stopped short of accusing the crown prince of involvement. The sanctions fall under the Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and were issued as part of the US Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. Such sanctions freeze targets' assets if they fall under US jurisdiction. The sanctions also forbid Americans and US companies from conducting business with them. Mnuchin's statement also said: "The Government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists." Trouble with the Turks The case has caused a row between the kingdom and Turkey, whose government insists the suspects should be tried in Turkey. Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called the Saudi prosecutor's statement "positive but insufficient," insisting that Khashoggi's murder was "premeditated." Cavusoglu said the Thursday announcement by Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor fell short of his own country's expectations: "I want to say that we did not find some of his explanations to be satisfactory" and that "those who gave the order, the real perpetrators, need to be revealed. This process cannot be closed down in this way." Cavusoglu also questioned why Saudi Arabia had only indicted 11 of the 18 suspects detained. He pointed out that the Saudi prosecutor made no mention of where Khashoggi's remains were taken: "There is a question that has not been answered yet. Where is Khashoggi's body? Where was he disposed of, where was he buried, where was he burned? There is still not an answer on this issue."

Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor has recommended the death penalty for five of the suspects charged in the murder case of dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi. However, he denied Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s involvement. Saud al-Mojeb, the kingdom’s top prosecutor, announced on Thursday that he was recommending the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects who have been charged with ... Read More »

Trump in Israel: the peace process, the embassy question and a self-inflicted wound

During his campaign Donald Trump made bold promises related to Israel that he must face on his first official visit to the country. But he also has to deal with an unexpected issue of his own making. For someone who thinks of himself as an adroit dealmaker, the Middle East in general and Israel in particular, provides some of the most difficult ties to unknot in global affairs. That's why it was not surprising that Donald Trump, author of the Art of the Deal and in his own estimation a skilled negotiator, jumped on the chance to insert himself into the minefield that is Middle Eastern politics. So ahead of Trump's first presidential visit to Israel here's a look at two promises he made regarding Israel and the Middle East that he will now have to confront as well as a third unplanned topic, he will also have to deal with. Trump's reported disclosure of secret intelligence The reported divulging of classified information originating from Israel by President Trump in the White House during a high-profile visit by the Russian Foreign Minister and Moscow's US ambassador is unlikely to be on the official itinerary when Trump meets Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Yet it would be unusual if this incident, which is extremely sensitive for both sides, would not somehow be broached during the presidential visit. "I believe that the last affair regarding intelligence materials that were disclosed to third parties is going to affect the relationship a little bit because this is beyond the regular relationship of the two relationship communities and infringes the tradition in that field”, said Gilead Sher, who served as chief of staff for former Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. That is why due to the sensitive nature of the issue it will "probably be discussed and cleared not in front of the cameras and not as part of the official visit, but behind closed doors between the leaders and I believe that it will be resolved eventually in a way that would be satisfactory to both parties," said Sher. The US embassy question Trump, during his campaign, repeatedly promised to relocate the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, which Israel considers its capital. Palestinians who also claim the city as a future capital of a Palestinian state oppose this, as do Jordan and other Arab states. Since 1995, all American presidents have chosen to walk the same fine line on the issue after Congress passed a directive calling on the US to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital and move its embassy there. They have signed waivers delaying the relocation every six months for national security reasons. And it looks like Trump will now join his predecessors and do the same. "Most people think that the campaign promise to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem has at a minimum been put on the back burner for now," said Michele Dunne, director of the Middle East program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "So that is unlikely to happen. But he could still say or do things that somehow recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital." The Israeli-Palestinian peace process While Trump is expected to backtrack on his campaign vow to relocate the US embassy, he is not expected to shelve what was arguably his most audacious promise: to reach a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. To the contrary, Trump earlier this month - during a White House meeting with Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas - appeared to double down on his pledge when he said in reference to a peace deal: "We will get done." "Trump wants to announce or preside over the recommencement of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians," said Josh Saidoff, fellow at the Center for Middle East Development at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) via email. Since his remarks during the Abbas visit and especially since it was announced that Trump would visit Israel during his first international trip as president less than four months after taking office - his predecessors Obama and Bush both visited Israel during their second term - there has been speculation about whether the president would use his Israel trip to officially re-launch the stalled US initiative to broker a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians. "From an Israeli perspective, if I see a process with a hands-on American presidential involvement starting at the end of this visit, I would say this would mark a success for all parties concerned," said Gilead Sher, who served as chief Israeli negotiator at the Camp David summit and the Taba peace talks with the Palestinians. But Sher qualified that he would only regard a new US peace effort as serious if it went beyond a mere one-time meeting. Asked whether he believes Trump is aware of the challenges of brokering a peace deal and capable to overcome them, Sher said he sincerely hopes so. "I think that President Trump is well positioned to facilitate a US-led effort towards that aim once the two state for two people solution is articulated in a way that is binding and continuous." Carnegie's Middle East expert Michele Dunne is more skeptical: "There is no indication at this point that there is any kind of well-formed strategy or approach to the Middle East peace process. They are still in exploration mode."

During his campaign Donald Trump made bold promises related to Israel that he must face on his first official visit to the country. But he also has to deal with an unexpected issue of his own making. For someone who thinks of himself as an adroit dealmaker, the Middle East in general and Israel in particular, provides some of the ... Read More »

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