By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury announced sanctions on 17 Saudis on Thursday for their role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, the first concrete response from the Trump administration to his death last month.
Those to be sanctioned include Saud al-Qahtani, a former top aide to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as the Saudi Consul General Mohammed Alotaibi.
The sanctions will be implemented under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuses and corruption. The announcement was unusual for Washington, which rarely imposes sanctions on Riyadh.
“These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions,” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said in a statement.
He added that Washington was continuing to try to determine what happened and would hold accountable everyone found responsible for Khashoggi’s death.
“The Government of Saudi Arabia must take appropriate steps to end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists,” Mnuchin said.
Among others facing sanctions are Maher Mutreb, an aide to Qahtani who has appeared in photographs with Prince Mohammed on official visits this year to the United States and Europe.
The office of Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said on Thursday it was seeking the death penalty for five out of 11 suspects charged in Khashoggi’s murder, as the kingdom tries to contain its biggest political crisis in a generation.
Khashoggi, a royal insider-turned-critic of Saudi policy, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 after a struggle, by lethal injection, deputy public prosecutor and spokesman Shalaan al-Shalaan told reporters.
Shalaan said that Prince Salman knew nothing of the operation, in which Khashoggi’s body was dismembered, removed from the building and handed over to an unidentified “local cooperator.”
(Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Paul Simao and Bernadette Baum)