The news that Saudi Arabia secretly convicted eight unnamed men for the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi failed to impress U.S. Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent who had urged its leader to take action when they spoke several months ago.

U.S. Sens. Angus King of Maine, left, and Todd Young of Indiana meet in September with Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman. Official Saudi Press Agency photo

King said Monday that he and U.S. Sen. Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, “made clear” to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that “any serious improvement in our bilateral relationship requires justice and accountability” for the slaying in a consulate in Turkey 14 months ago.

In his prepared statement, King said they told the crown prince the Saudis needed to act “clearly, publicly and without equivocation” to deal with the killers.

“Between the secrecy surrounding the proceedings, including refusing to name those found guilty, and apparently not accounting for the role the crown prince’s top aide Saud al-Qahtani played in the murder — for a lack of evidence, effort, or possibly both — today’s announcement does not seem to meet those criteria,” the second-term senator said.

King said that if the crown prince, who essentially rules his land, “wishes to truly bring Saudi Arabia into the 21st century and address the trust deficit between our two nations, he must commit to more transparent and complete justice, both now and in the future.”

“I look forward to receiving more information on these developments from U.S. diplomatic and intelligence officials in the near future,” said King, who serves along with U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, on the Senate Intelligence Committee.

A United Nations expert, Agnes Callamard of the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, investigated the journalist’s death and concluded Khashoggi was the victim of a “deliberate, premeditated execution” and that “the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible” and ought to be investigated.

A Turkish newspaper said that a transcript of an audio recording it obtained of the October 2018 murder that made clear the journalist was smothered and dismembered by a Saudi hit team within 12 minutes of arriving at the consulate in Istanbul. A 17-member squad arrived from Saudi Arabia on two of the country’s jets shortly before the murder.

There have been many news stories that say U.S. intelligence agencies are convinced that bin Salman ordered the attack on the 59-year-old Khashoggi and that al-Qahtani led the operation.

A Saudi court in Riyadh apparently sentenced five unidentified men to death for their roles in the killing of the journalist. Three others were given prison sentences.

It appears the ruling punishes some of the men who executed Khashoggi without touching the officials who sent them to Istanbul with the tools to murder him, including a bone saw to slice up his corpse on the spot.

The court cleared three of the accused for lack of evidence, Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor and spokesman Shalaan al-Shalaan said, according to Reuters.

“The investigation showed that the killing was not premeditated,” the Saudi spokesman said. He insisted the decision to kill the journalist “was taken at the spur of the moment.”


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