By Brett Wilkins / Common Dreams
As U.S. President Joe Biden prepares to visit Saudi Arabia—a country he previously vowed to make a “pariah”—human rights advocates including Jamal Khashoggi’s former fiancée on Wednesday demanded that the Saudi officials responsible for the journalist’s 2018 murder and disappearance be brought to justice.
In a statement read at Wednesday’s unveiling of Jamal Khashoggi Way outside the Saudi Embassy in Washington, D.C., Hatice Cengiz—who was engaged to Khashoggi when he disappeared in October 2018—urged Biden to “uphold your vow to bring all the perpetrators of this brutal crime to justice.”
“President Biden, I know you have experienced the unimaginable pain of losing a loved one. But unlike your losses, the person I love was brutally murdered,” she said. “And I’ve been forced to live in a world where his murderers have not only gone unpunished but have also been rewarded.”
“As disappointing as this is, if you have to put oil over principles and expedience over values, can you at least ask, ‘Where is Jamal’s body?'” Cengiz asked. “Doesn’t he deserve a proper burial? And what happened to his killers?”
Abdullah Alaoudh, Gulf research director at Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) and the son of Saudi political prisoner Salman al-Odah, lamented that the Biden administration “wants to effectively move on from the murder of Khashoggi in order to repair ties” with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) and his repressive fundamentalist government.
“They know that justice has not been served. Jamal’s body is yet to be found,” he added. “And the prisoners of conscience including my father, who Khashoggi advocated for, are still in prison.”
Khashoggi vanished while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents related to his planned marriage. Turkish officials said he was attacked, suffocated to death, and dismembered with a bone saw inside the consular compound. One Turkish investigator said Khashoggi was tortured in front the Saudi consul-general and dismembered while he was still alive.
Saudi officials initially denied that Khashoggi died in the consulate but later confirmed his death, claiming it resulted from a “fistfight” gone wrong.
In 2019, a Saudi court sentenced five people to death and three others to prison terms in connection with Khashoggi’s murder. However, the death sentences were later commuted.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency concluded that bin Salman ordered the assassination.
While campaigning for president in 2019, Biden said he would make Saudi leaders “pay the price” for Khashoggi’s murder “and make them in fact the pariah that they are.” Biden also vowed to “end the sale of material to the Saudis where they’re going in and murdering children” in Yemen. He has broken all of those promises.
“Biden has abandoned his commitment to promote human rights around the world… [and] his commitment to punish Jamal Khashoggi’s killers. This is a shame,” Tawakkol Karman, a Yemeni Nobel laureate and friend of Khashoggi, said at Wednesday’s unveiling. “Shame on the Biden administration. Washington should punish Jamal Khashoggi’s killers.”
“Let me ask Biden: When you meet with MBS, will this serve justice for Jamal?” he asked. “Will this serve democracy in the Arab region as you promised? Will this serve peace in Yemen? Will this serve stability and security in the world? Absolutely not.”