U.S. president praises Gulf kingdom’s ruler despite international outrage over his alleged role in murder of Saudi journalist
U.S. President Donald Trump praised Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Saturday, saying he was doing a “spectacular job,” despite international outcry over the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The young royal has faced international pressure after the U.S.-based writer was killed and dismembered in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul last year. “You have done a spectacular job,” Trump told the powerful crown prince as the pair met on the sidelines of the G20 summit, referring to him as “a friend of mine.”
But Trump ignored questions from the media about whether he would raise the journalist’s murder during his working breakfast with the prince.
In a readout provided after the talks, the White House said the pair discussed “the importance of human rights issues,” among other subjects, but gave no further details.
Riyadh has hit back against claims that Prince Mohammed bears responsibility in the murder of Khashoggi, who was killed in what Saudi authorities have described as a rogue operation.
A U.N. expert report has said that the “execution of Mr. Khashoggi was the responsibility of the state of Saudi Arabia,” and that Prince Mohammed must have been aware of attempts to cover up the crime, including a forensic cleaning of the consulate. The report urged a formal criminal investigation into the case.
But Saudi prosecutors say all those to blame are already on trial, citing proceedings against 11 unnamed individuals in the kingdom.
Five of those face the death penalty in the trial, which has been held secretly, with only a handful of diplomats allowed to attend. But Trump was effusive in his praise of Prince Mohammed, who has moved to loosen some social restrictions in the kingdom but also cracked down on activists, including women pressing for the right to drive.
“It’s an honor to be with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia… a man who has really done things in the last five years in terms of opening up Saudi Arabia,” Trump said. “It’s like a revolution in a very positive way.”