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UN expert calls for probe of Saudi prince

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16 people believed to be connected to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi have been barred from entry into the U.S. by the State Department.
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A United Nations human rights expert on Wednesday cited “credible evidence” that high-level officials in Saudi Arabia including Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud were involved in the death of journalist Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi.

Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur leading an independent inquiry, issued a 100-page report on Khashoggi’s death at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October. She called for a halt to the trial underway in Saudi Arabia, calling the murder an international crime requiring a criminal investigation led by the U.N.

Callamard found no “smoking gun” but cautioned that the investigation must focus on those who “have abused, or failed to fulfill, the responsibilities of their positions of authority.”

The Saudi government had no immediate comment. The White House said it was studying the report. President Donald Trump defended the crown prince in the weeks after Khashoggi’s death, saying the evidence was not clear and that the U.S.-Saudi relationship was too valuable to disrupt.

“It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said in November. “The world is a very dangerous place!”

More: ‘Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!’ Trump says US will stand by Saudis

Turkey, however, has been a dogged pursuer of the case, and its relations with Saudi Arabia have been strained.

Khashoggi, 59, was a critic of the Saudi ruling family who wrote for the Washington Post. He was living in self-exile in Turkey when he went to the consulate in search of paperwork related to his planned marriage.

The prince has repeatedly denied involvement in Khashoggi’s death, and Saudi officials have blamed the murder on “rogue” agents and say his body was dismembered in the consulate. His remains have never been recovered.

Eleven people are on trial there, including five who could face execution if convicted. But Callamard said at least one person responsible for planning the attack on Khashoggi has not been charged. And the report says the closed-door trial fails to meet international procedural and fairness standards.

“The special rapporteur has determined that there is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi officials’ individual liability, including the crown prince’s,” the report says.

The report includes a timeline of the killing based on audio tapes from the consulate released by Turkish authorities. His attackers say they must take Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia, and order him to type a text to his son.

The report says intelligence officials from Turkey and elsewhere believe the journalist may have been injected with a sedative, a plastic bag was placed over his head and he was suffocated. The sound similar to a saw also could be heard in the tapes.

“Mr. Khashoggi’s killing constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the state of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible,” Callamard said in her report. “His attempted kidnapping would also constitute a violation under international human rights law.”

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