The Biden administration’s refusal to punish Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has put the lives of critics in grave danger, exiled dissidents of the kingdom warned.
The activists, including some who have previously been warned that they were possibly at risk of being hurt by agents of the kingdom, said in interviews with the Guardian that they believed the 35-year-old crown prince and de-facto ruler known as MBS would be emboldened after the White House declined to sanction him.
Commenting on last week’s report by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) Saudi critic Khalid Al-Jabri said:
The Biden administration’s release of the ODNI report [into Jamal Khashoggi’s murder] is welcomed transparency, but the lack of direct accountability will give MBS permanent impunity, rendering him more dangerous.
Al-Jabri is the son of a former senior Saudi official Saad Al-Jabri who is living in exile in Canada and whose siblings, Omar and Sarah, are being held in the kingdom.
According to the case filed by Al-Jabri in a US court, Bin Salman personally controlled a team of mercenaries known as the Tiger Squad “to fulfil his murderous desire” and have him assassinated in Canada. The 106-page complaint filed by Al-Jabri in Washington DC in August claims that the prince wanted him killed because he possesses “damning information”. It is claimed that the heir to the Saudi throne obtained a religious fatwa (opinion) authorising the killing of the former top intelligence official.
Speaking to the Guardian Al-Jabri’s son went on to say that the crown prince “is probably thinking he can get away with future assassinations as long as he doesn’t leave fingerprints.”
Similar sentiments were expressed by pro-democracy activist Iyad Al-Baghdadi who is living in exile in Norway. Al-Baghdadi is a Palestinian critic of the crown prince who is living under asylum protection. He was rushed to a safe location in April 2019 following a CIA tip-off that he was facing a potential threat from Saudi Arabia.
“I am actually less safe now than I was before this,” said Al- Baghdadi. “The combined facts of [the US saying] ‘Yes, he did it’ and ‘No, we cannot do anything about it but sanction some of his henchmen’ is very dangerous. What does this normalise?” he asked.
Warning of the violent consequences of US refusal to punish MBS. Al-Baghdadi said: “In my mind, this cannot be it. It seems that people in the White House are thinking about conventional foreign policy and they need to wake the f$@@ up. They are bringing a knife to a gunfight.”
Another dissident, Omar Abdulaziz, who was a close associate of Khashoggi, also warned of the message being sent by the Biden administration. The crown prince “can do whatever he wants,” he is reported saying. The concerns of several other dissidents were also raised in the report.