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Biden admin sanctions 76 Saudis in new ‘Khashoggi Ban’ to protect journalists, dissidents from foreign gov’ts

Protestors demonstrate at the entrance of Saudi Arabia consulate. (Depo Photos/Zuma Press/TNS)
February 26, 2021

Secretary of State Anthony Blinken announced new travel restrictions on 76 Saudi individuals “believed to have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas”, including those connected to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Dubbed the “Khashoggi Ban”, individuals who fall under the restrictions will be denied visas for them and their immediate family members, and anyone who has targeted perceived dissidents on behalf of any foreign government will not be allowed into the United States.

“The Khashoggi Ban allows the State Department to impose visa restrictions on individuals who, acting on behalf of a foreign government, are believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities, including those that suppress, harass, surveil, threaten, or harm journalists, activists, or other persons perceived to be dissidents for their work, or who engage in such activities with respect to the families or other close associates of such persons,” Friday’s announcement stated.

The decision “to push back against governments that reach beyond their borders to threaten and attack journalists and perceived dissidents for exercising their fundamental freedoms” came following a report from the Biden administration that provided transparency on Khashoggi’s murder, according to Blinken’s announcement.

“Individuals should be able to exercise their human rights and fundamental freedoms without fear of government retribution, retaliation, punishment, or harm.  Jamal Khashoggi paid with his life to express his beliefs,” the announcement read.

Blinken also said he directed the State Department to report on “any such extraterritorial activities” by foreign governments, adding that the United States remains invested in its relationship with Saudi Arabia, but that the relationship must reflect American values.

“To that end, we have made absolutely clear that extraterritorial threats and assaults by Saudi Arabia against activists, dissidents, and journalists must end.  They will not be tolerated by the United States,” Blinken wrote.

He continued, “The United States will continue to shine a light on any government that targets individuals, either domestically or extraterritorially, merely for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

On Friday, a U.S. intelligence report revealed that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman signed off on the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

“We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi,” the report concluded.

The prince has denied being involved in the killing, while accepting symbolic responsibility as Saudi Arabia’s ruler. Officials in the Middle Eastern country have asserted that the murder was committed by rogue agents who were subsequently prosecuted.