Fiancée of murdered Saudi journalist demands justice at UN General Assembly

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Sunday, September 29, 2019

On Thursday, Hatice Cengiz, fiancée of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, addressed reporters in New York, New York, calling for the killers of Khashoggi to be brought to justice. Cengiz traveled to New York for the United Nations (UN) General Assembly which took place this week. Khashoggi was murdered last October in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Hatice Cengiz is a Turkish national now living in London.

Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. (Image: April Brady/POMED)
Mohammad bin Salman meeting with Mike Pompeo, 2019 (Image: USDOS)

The previous day, television broadcaster PBS revealed that in December, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia accepted responsibility for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi but did not say he'd ordered it. Speaking to Martin Smith of PBS, he said, "It happened under my watch. I get all the responsibility, because it happened under my watch." The official position remained that rogue operatives within the Saudi government committed the murder. According to Reuters and NBC, Mohammad bin Salman is the de facto Saudi ruler.

Cengiz called Mohammad's admission a "political maneuver." She explained, "By confessing this, he's also distancing himself from the killing of Jamal [...] He's saying that it happened under his watch but he means he is not involved in this crime." She credited news media with keeping the story alive. Speaking to NBC News, she said, "His fellow journalists did their best that so no one could push this under the carpet [...] But at the end of the day, all of these efforts did not persuade world leaders to sanction Saudi Arabia. That is so sad".

"What is so sad for me", Cengiz said, "is not seeing the punishment of the perpetrators [...] Imagine that the entire world remains silent over Jamal's killing. This silence and inertia created huge disappointment on my side."

Agnès Callamard, a UN rapporteur for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights who had investigated the case, cautioned justice does not come swiftly. "True justice takes time and I know it's painful, but that's the reality of the world we live in," she said, asking Cengiz to be "patient and resilient."

The CIA and other intelligence agencies reportedly believe the crown prince ordered Khashoggi's killing. Callamard encouraged the CIA to release the files from their investigation. A closed-door trial is underway in Saudi Arabia in which eleven individuals have been charged with the murder, however Callamard did not give it any credence.

Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi national, was a columnist for The Washington Post, and he lived in self-imposed exile in Virginia as a legal resident of the United States. He entered the consulate in Istanbul on October 2 2018, seeking documents allowing him to marry Turkish national Hatice Cengiz. He never came out. Saudi Arabia initially denied all claims that Khashoggi was slain, however, a UN report eventually concluded evidence supported his murder and dismemberment inside the consulate by Saudi agents. To date, his remains had not been recovered.