18 Saudis linked to Khashoggi murder banned from European border-free zone
Decision made after co-ordinating with France and Britain, German official says
Germany has issued entry bans for 18 Saudi citizens suspected of involvement in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia's Istanbul Consulate, effectively banning them from the European Union's passport-free Schengen zone.
A foreign ministry spokesperson later added that the government would further cut down on arms exports by pressuring arms manufacturers with valid export licences to stop shipments that had already been authorized.
The moves represent a sharpening of the position of Germany, which last month imposed a ban on the issuing of future export weapons export licenses to Saudi Arabia until the circumstances of Khashoggi's killing have been fully cleared up.
It suggests Berlin is prepared to use its influence as the EU's largest country to push for a tougher European line, given the ban will effectively apply across the 26-country Schengen Area.
"We have co-ordinated closely with our French and British friends and decided, as Germany, to put an entry ban beside their names in the Schengen system database," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Christofer Burger told a news conference.
Any member of the Schengen Area can unilaterally impose a binding entry ban on any individual it deems a security risk. France is part of the zone; Britain is not.
Nonetheless, imposing such a large number of bans at once in such a politically sensitive case is unusual.
No names released
Turkish and Saudi authorities say that Khashoggi was killed on Oct. 2 in Istanbul by a team from the kingdom, after he went to the Saudi Consulate to get marriage documents.
Burger said the entry bans applied to the 15 members of the squad accused of carrying out the killing of the critic of Saudi policy, and a further three who are suspected of organizing it. He declined to name the individuals.
He also declined to say whether Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has been accused by U.S. intelligence officials of ordering the killing, was among them.
Saudi prosecutors said last week that the crown prince, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, knew nothing of the operation, in which Khashoggi's body was dismembered, his remains removed from the building and handed over to an unidentified "local co-operator." The whereabouts of his remains are unknown.
A spokesperson with Germany's Interior Ministry said the ban applied to holders of diplomatic passports, held by many members of the Saudi royal family.
A spokesperson for Germany's Economics Ministry said the ban on authorizing weapons exports to Saudi Arabia remained in force. "There are no exports of weapons from Germany to Saudi Arabia at the moment," he said.
Trump comments on recording
The move comes a day after U.S. President Donald Trump said there was no reason for him to listen to a recording of the "very violent, very vicious" killing of Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post who had been critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
A Republican member of the U.S. Senate intelligence committee said over the weekend that, so far, there is no "smoking gun" linking the crown prince to the killing.
Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, who has received a confidential intelligence briefing on the matter, told ABC News "it's hard to imagine" that the crown prince didn't know about the killing, but he said, "I don't know that we absolutely know that yet."
Trump, in an interview that aired Sunday, made clear that the audio recording, supplied by the Turkish government, would not affect his response to the murder.
Trump said he "was fully briefed on it, there's no reason for me to hear it." Trump is expected to receive a full report on the situation in the coming days.
The administration this past week penalized 17 Saudi officials for their alleged role in the killing, but American lawmakers have called for curtailing arms sales to Saudi Arabia or other harsher punitive measures.
With files from CBC News and The Associated Press