Khashoggi: The Penalty of Free Expression

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Jamal Khashoggi was a man with an impressive background in journalism in both Saudi Arabia as well as the United States. He kept close relations with the Saudi royal family for decades and even served as an adviser to the Saudi government, until Prince Mohammed bin Salman was crowned last year. Khashoggi was forced to flee to the US in self-imposed exile; he later revealed that this drastic circumstance was out of fear that a corrupt crackdown on dissent overseen by the Prince would result in his arrest. Over the past year, Khashoggi has written a monthly column in the Washington Post, which he has used to critique the policies of Saudi Arabia’s rising Crown Prince.

On September 28th, he visited the Saudi consulate in Turkey to obtain a document certifying that he had divorced his ex-wife. He was then informed that he would have to visit a second time in order to receive all proper documentation to marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz. On October 2nd, He arrived at 13:14 local time for his 13:30 appointment and asked Cengiz to wait in the car outside the consulate. She waited 10 hours for him to return and even checked again the next morning, but Khashoggi never reappeared.

After Khashoggi’s disappearance became public, Saudi officials refused to admit any knowledge regarding the case. Crown Prince Mohammed at first claimed that Khashoggi left the consulate in less than an hour, but on October 20th, the Turkish media revealed that Khashoggi had in fact been killed. The blame then fell on a “rogue operation” that is currently being investigated. Authorities have announced the arrest of 18 Saudi nationals and the dismissal of two senior officials. Following this statement, there has been multiple contradicting assertions on the motives behind the murder and whether it was premeditated. While Saudi officials have acted suspiciously nonchalant throughout this entire case, Turkish President Recap Tayyip Erdogan has made a strong argument that Khashoggi’s murder was planned in advance. Turkey has tracked the flight times of 15 Saudi nationals, all who have now been deemed suspects. This same group was also caught removing the security cameras and surveillance footage from the Saudi consulate prior to Khashoggi’s arrival. In addition, there is audio and video evidence that further documents the murder, although it has not yet been made public.

Although Saudi Arabia and Turkey continue to clash in the investigation of Khashoggi’s murder, it is the US’s response that is the most disheartening. Khashoggi was killed in a building of diplomacy because of his written criticisms of the Saudi government. His untimely death is a clear violation of the First Amendment. Since Khashoggi was a legal resident of the US, President Donald Trump should be enforcing a thorough investigation of the case in order to bring the guilty assassins to justice. A recently-released interview reveals Cengiz’s grief over her fiance’s death and growing frustration over Trump’s mixed messages. The President has both vowed a severe response and, in contrast, argued to preserve a close relationship with Saudi Arabia. Cengiz views this as Trump once again prioritizing US trade interests over our government’s obligation to ensure that our Constitution is upheld. Trying to sweep the story under the rug is not going to make it disappear, so Trump must decide soon whether a commercial alliance is worth the infringement of American values.

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