Tue, 13 Apr 2021

Washington [US], February 27 (ANI): The United States on Friday (local time) imposed visa restrictions on 76 Saudi individuals who are believed to have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas.

In a statement just after a US report implicted Saudi's crown prince Muhammed bin Salman of approving the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, US State Secretary Antony Blinken announced the "Khashoggi Ban," a new visa restriction policy.

While the United States remains invested in its relationship with Saudi Arabia, Blinken said that President Joe Biden has made it clear that partnership must reflect US values.

"To that end, we have made absolutely clear that extraterritorial threats and assaults by Saudi Arabia against activists, dissidents, and journalists must end. They will not be tolerated by the United States," the statement read.

The Khashoggi ban will allow the State Department to impose visa restrictions on individuals who, "acting on behalf of a foreign government, are believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities, including those that suppress, harass, surveil, threaten, or harm journalists, activists, or other persons perceived to be dissidents for their work, or who engage in such activities with respect to the families or other close associates of such persons".

To start with, Blinken said that the US Department of State has taken action pursuant to the Khashoggi Ban to impose visa restrictions on 76 Saudi individuals believed to have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas, including but not limited to the Khashoggi killing.

Khashoggi, who was a vocal critic of the Saudi regime, was killed on October 2, 2018 in Turkey where he had gone to obtain paperwork certifying his divorce from his former wife Alaa Nassif in order to be able to marry his Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz.

Blinken said that the world was horrified by the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who paid with his life to express his beliefs.

"Individuals should be able to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms without fear of government retribution, retaliation, punishment, or harm. Jamal Khashoggi paid with his life to express his beliefs. President Biden said in a statement released last October on the second anniversary of the murder that Khashoggi's death would not be in vain, and that we owe it to his memory to fight for a more just and free world," the statement read.

"Today, the Biden-Harris Administration submitted an unclassified report to Congress, providing transparency on this horrific killing. Alongside the transmission of that report, and as part of the President's pledge, the United States Government is announcing additional measures to reinforce the world's condemnation of that crime, and to push back against governments that reach beyond their borders to threaten and attack journalists and perceived dissidents for exercising their fundamental freedoms," the statement further read.

The report said that Crown Prince Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The report 'Assessing the Saudi Government Role in the Killing of Jamal Khashoggi' was released on Friday (local time) by the US' Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

"We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi," the report read.

The report was released a day after US President Joe Biden had a telephonic conversation with Saudi King Salman, though a White House summary of the conversation made no mention of the killing. (ANI)

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