U.S. raises pressure on Saudi Arabia over missing journalist
U.S. President Donald Trump increased pressure on Saudi Arabia on Wednesday to provide information on what happened to missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and said he wanted to get the bottom of what he called “a very serious situation.”
In a fresh clue, a pro-government Turkish daily on Wednesday published preliminary evidence from investigators it said identified a 15-member Saudi intelligence team involved in Khashoggi’s unexplained disappearance on Oct. 2.
Pressure appeared to be building worldwide on close U.S. ally Saudi Arabia on the whereabouts of Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Saudi policies, who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get documents for his planned marriage.
Khashoggi’s Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside, said he never re-appeared.
Turkish sources said they believe Khashoggi was killed inside the building and removed, allegations that Riyadh dismisses as baseless.
Asked in a telephone interview with Fox News Channel late on Wednesday whether Saudis were responsible for Khashoggi’s disappearance or death, Trump said: “I guess you would have to say so far it’s looking a little bit like that and we’re going to have to see.”
Earlier in the Oval Office, Trump told reporters he had raised Khashoggi’s case with Saudi Arabia “at the highest level” and more than once in recent days.
“We’re demanding everything,” Trump said when asked if he was demanding information from the Saudis. “We want to see what’s going on. It’s a very serious situation for us and for this White House … We want to get to the bottom of it.”
He said he and his wife, Melania, expect to invite Cengiz to the White House soon.
“People saw him go in and didn’t see him come out. We’re going to take a very serious look at it. It’s a terrible thing,” Trump said. “This is a bad situation. We cannot let this happen, to reporters, to anybody. We can’t let this happen.”
Increasing pressure on Trump to respond, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators on Wednesday triggered a U.S. investigation into Khashoggi’s disappearance using a human rights law.
They asked Trump to determine whether “a foreign person is responsible for an extrajudicial killing, torture, or other gross violation of internationally recognized human rights” and report back in 120 days with a decision on the imposition of sanctions on whoever was responsible.