US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Saudi king and crown prince Monday that the killers of journalist Jamal Khashoggi must “be held accountable.”
“Every single person who has responsibility for the murder of Jamal Khashoggi needs to be held accountable,” Pompeo told reporters after meeting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his father King Salman in Riyadh on Monday.
“I think the Trump administration has made it clear that our expectation in all those involved in the murder of Khashoggi will be held accountable, so we spent time talking about human rights issues,” he added.
Pompeo is on a marathon Middle East tour which has taken him to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.
The killing and dismemberment of Khashoggi – a Saudi royal court insider turned government critic – at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 sparked global outrage. The CIA concluded bin Salman, commonly referred to by his initials MBS, ordered Khashoggi’s murder, but Trump has cast doubt on his own intelligence community’s assessment.
The Trump administration has been reluctant to punish Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s murder, citing economic benefits to the US.
In a December statement subtitled “America First!” Trump said that “our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump also cited the Kingdom’s influence over oil prices and said, “if we abandon Saudi it would be a terrible mistake.”
Pompeo said he discussed “the investigative process and the judicial process” of the killing of Khashoggi with the king and crown prince.
The kingdom has also drawn rebuke from rights groups over the 2018 arrests and alleged torture of Saudi women’s rights defenders. Pompeo said the female activists were discussed in his meetings with the Saudi leaders.
In an opinion piece in the New York Times on Sunday, the sister of jailed rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul detailed the abuse she said her sister was subjected to in prison. Riyadh has previously denied allegations that it tortured the women’s rights activists.