Canada sanctions 17 Saudis linked to Khashoggi killing

The Canadian government has taken its first concrete measure to protest the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Turkey last month. Seventeen Saudi nationals have been rendered inadmissible to Canada and if they hold any Canadian assets, they have been frozen.

Saudi crown prince not on list as he joins G20 leaders at summit in Argentina

Canada announced sanctions Thursday against 17 Saudi nationals linked to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who resided in the U.S. and wrote for the Washington Post. (Ali Haider/EPA-EFE)

The Canadian government took its first concrete measure Thursday to protest the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

Seventeen Saudi nationals have been rendered inadmissible to Canada. If the named individuals hold any Canadian assets, those have been frozen.

"It has been nearly two months since the vile, premeditated murder," Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland told reporters after arriving in Buenos Aires, Argentina, for the G20 leaders summit, "and the explanations offered to date by Saudi Arabia lack consistency and credibility."

Khashoggi's killing is "abhorrent and represents an unconscionable attack on the freedom of expression and freedom of the press," Freeland said.

The director of Canada's spy service travelled to Turkey and heard a recording of Khashoggi's killing during a briefing provided by Turkish officials.

"We continue to call for a credible and independent international investigation," the minister said. "This case is not closed. Those responsible for Mr. Khashoggi's death must be held to account and must face justice."

"It is the clear opinion of our government that they were either directly involved in, or complicit in the murder," Freeland said. "That is why we feel confident imposing these sanctions on them, which is a very serious measure."

The targeted sanctions have been implemented under the terms of Canada's Justice for Victims of Corrupt Foreign Officials Act — also called the Magnitsky law, after the Moscow lawyer who uncovered the largest tax fraud in Russian history but was detained, tortured and consequently died, without any investigation or justice in his case. 

No new steps on arms sales

The list of named individuals does not include Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi's crown prince, who is in Argentina for the G20 summit.

Freeland said the summit was an opportunity to discuss the Khashoggi case "face to face" with other allied countries that want to see accountability for the killing. The extraterritorial element of this case, and the fact that it happened in Turkey, a NATO ally, "is significant to us," Freeland said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said Thursday that sanctioning 17 individuals who were involved in the murder of a Saudi dissident journalist was an important step, but the case is not closed. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Freeland reiterated that because of both this murder and the continuing war in Yemen, Canada is reviewing its arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

"During this period of review, no new arms export permits are being issued," she said, also not ruling out suspending permits that have already been issued.

Thursday's list includes Saud al-Qahtani, a senior official in the Saudi Arabian government, his subordinate Maher Mutreb and Saudi Consul General Mohammed Alotaibi.

The other 14 were part of an operations team involved in the killing, according to an American release earlier this month.

Media reports have suggested one of them, Meshal Saad Al Bostani, died in a "suspicious car accident" in October.

Named individuals already in jail

Khashoggi, a well-connected Saudi who became critical of his country, relocated to the U.S. in 2017 and was writing for the Washington Post at the time of his killing. 

While some have suspected the involvement of the Saudi royal family in this killing, U.S. President Donald Trump has insisted that there is not enough evidence to blame the crown prince.

As the G20 Meetings in Buenos Aires get underway, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announces sanctions against 17 Saudis linked to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. 2:41

Freeland was asked directly if she believed bin Salman was involved.

"We believe that in naming people ... it's very important to gather all the facts," she said. "It's very important to act and to speak only on the basis of real certainty. These are not steps that we take lightly."

The list does not include Ahmed al-Assiri, a former deputy head of the Saudi intelligence service known to be close to the crown prince. It did include Assiri's deputy, Mutreb, who has served as a bodyguard for the crown prince and was seen on camera at the consulate in Turkey.

All of the individuals on the list were already in jail, making it impossible for them to travel to Canada anyway.

The government release did not indicate exactly what, if any, Canadian assets are held by these individuals.

The U.S. froze any American assets of the same individuals on Nov.15.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside Saudi Arabia's Turkish Embassy last month. Kashoggi was actually killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
    Nov 29, 2018 12:15 PM ET