The US State Department on Monday barred entry to 16 Saudi nationals over what it described as their role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as the administration of Donald Trump continues to face harsh criticism over its handling of the affair.
A statement by the State Department listed the 16 individuals and said that they had been designated under the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act.
The section in question “provides that, in cases where the Secretary of State has credible information that officials of foreign governments have been involved in significant corruption or gross violations of human rights, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States. The law requires the Secretary of State to publicly or privately designate such officials and their immediate family members.”
The State Department previously revoked the visas of nearly two dozen Saudi officials and froze the assets of 17 others.
Dissident writer Khashoggi was killed and dismembered on October 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a team of 15 agents sent from Riyadh, sparking unprecedented international scrutiny of the kingdom’s human rights record.
But despite the fact that Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince Mohammed bin Salman was named as “responsible” for the murder by the US Senate, who adopted their resolution after being briefed by the CIA, the US President has refused to publicly take a stand against the country’s de facto ruler.
Trump has instead emphasized that Riyadh is a major arms importer for the United States and an important regional ally against Iran.
After initially denying the murder, Riyadh said the operation was carried out by agents who were out of control. A trial of 11 suspects opened earlier this year in Saudi Arabia. But much of the case remains shrouded, including the precise role of Prince Mohammed.