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'Saudi Steve Bannon' among 17 Saudis placed under US sanctions for roles in Khashoggi murder

Saud al-Qahtani, one of MbS' key aides, is known as the Saudi "Steve Bannon" [Twitter]

Date of publication: 15 November, 2018

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The US Treasury has slapped economic sanctions on 17 Saudis accused of being involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.
The US has slapped economic sanctions on 17 Saudis accused of being involved in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, including 'media enforcer' Saud al-Qahtani.

The sanctions were declared after Riyadh's public prosecutor announced that five officials face a possible death sentence in the case, but exonerated powerful Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, claiming he had no knowledge of the murder at the hands of royal court aides.

"The Saudi officials we are sanctioning were involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. "These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions."

The sanctions, which fall under the US Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, freeze any assets those blacklisted have under US jurisdiction, and forbid Americans and US companies from doing business with them. 

Read more: Holding Khashoggi's murderers accountable with the Global Magnitsky Act

Earlier Thursday, Riyadh admitted for the first time that Khashoggi was drugged and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October.

Qahtani was sacked last month along with deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri - in a move that has widely been seen as an attempt to scapegoat the officials and cover up Prince Mohammed's role in Khashoggi's murder.

Qahtani has said in previous online statements that he takes all his orders from the defacto ruler.

"I don't do anything from my own head without an order. I am an employee and executer to my king and my crown prince," he said.

Dubbed the "Saudi Steve Bannon", Qahtani is known for whipping the country's journalists into submission, promising to smite the enemies of his master, and peddling fake news.

Last year, in one such hypernationalist social media campaign, Qahtani launched a McCarthyist appeal to Saudis to compile a blacklist containing the names and identities of anyone showing sympathy with Qatar under the Arabic hashtag #TheBlacklist. 

Others sanctioned by the US Treasury include Maher Mutreb, Saudi intelligence officer who was previously posted as a security officer at the kingdom's embassy in London. Mutreb has been photographed working among Prince Mohammed's security detail on trips outside the kingdom. 

Mohammed al-Otaibi, Saudi Arabia's consul to Istanbul, was also on the list. According to Turkish daily Yeni Safak, he can be heard on one tape saying during Khashoggi's torture: "Do this outside. You are going to get me in trouble".

Turkey has called for the Saudi suspects to be tried in a Turkish court, despite the crime taking place inside the Saudi mission. Authorities have prepared extradition requests.

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