The fiancée of murdered US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi told President Biden “you are dishonoring yourself” and “putting oil over principles” by agreeing to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during his visit to the Middle East next month.
“Mr. President, I beseech you not to lose your moral authority or overlook this heinous crime,” Hatice Cengiz said in a videotaped message Wednesday. “You must uphold your role to bring all the perpetrators of this brutal crime to justice.”
Cengiz also invoked the 1972 car accident that killed Biden’s first wife and infant daughter.
“Like me, you intimately know grief, pain and sorrow,” she said. “You understand how it is very, very difficult to recover … But unlike your losses, the person I loved was brutally murdered, and I’m being forced to live in a world where his murderers have not only been unpunished, but also been rewarded.
“As disappointing as this is,” Cengiz went on, “if you have to put oil over principles, and expediency over values, can you at least ask, ‘Where is Jamal’s body? Doesn’t he deserve a proper burial? And what happened to his killers?’”
Khashoggi, a Virginia resident who contributed opinion columns to the Washington Post, was lured to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul amid a 2018 political crackdown by the crown prince.
After Khashoggi arrived at the diplomatic post, ostensibly to retrieve documents needed to marry Cengiz, a Saudi hit squad killed him and, according to Turkish authorities, dismembered his body using a bone saw.
The Saudi government initially denied any wrongdoing. But under mounting international pressure, Riyadh eventually admitted that Khashoggi had been killed inside the consulate in what the Saudis characterized as a repatriation effort gone wrong.
The US intelligence community has said that Mohammed bin Salman, commonly known as MBS, ordered and signed off on the operation that killed Khashoggi. The Saudi regime has consistently denied that connection. Several lower-level Saudi officials and agents received jail sentences over the killing.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters that Cengiz’s words were “devastating,” but declined to say whether Biden would raise Khashoggi’s murder with MBS when he visits the kingdom.
“First, I want to say you know, just hearing that it’s devastating, right?” Jean-Pierre said. “It is Jamal Khashoggi’s widow, and so clearly our hearts go out to her and the pain that she’s currently going through.”
“You know, when it comes to human rights, this is not something — the president is a straight shooter,” she continued. “This is not something that he’s afraid to talk about. He has those conversations under leader to conversations on a regular basis. I cannot read out right now or lay out what the agenda is going to be or what the conversations are going to be. But I can assure you, I can assure you that when it comes to human rights, this is something that is a priority for this president.”
The White House confirmed Tuesday that Biden would visit Saudi Arabia on his upcoming trip, despite vowing during his presidential campaign to treat Riyadh as a “pariah.”
On Wednesday, Washington DC officials held a formal ceremony renaming the street in front of the Saudi embassy Jamal Khashoggi Way, with a sign unveiled directly in front of the building’s main entrance.
With Post wires