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Saudi Arabia’s role in journalist’s death at its diplomatic site provokes global attention

Catch up on this developing saga and summarize fresh information.
Read a column or other opinion page commentary about this case. Why do or don't you agree with the writer?
Now pick any other foreign news and tell why it catches your eye.

Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S.-based journalist whose name wasn't widely known three weeks ago, now is the focus of front-page daily news coverage around the globe. The opinion writer, who fled his Saudi Arabian homeland in 2016 because he was a persistent government critic, died Oct. 2 at Saudi diplomatic offices in Istanbul, Turkey. The government in his native country, a royal kingdom led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (nicknamed MBS in the media), acknowledged the death last Friday after a series of changing statements in a cover-up effort that lasted 17 days.

Saudi leaders now claim Khashoggi (pronounced kah-SHO-gee) was fatally strangled during a fight at their consulate in Turkey's capital. The government in Riyadh, capital of Saudi Arabia (the largest Middle Eastern country and the world's leading source of oil), arrested 18 people -- 15 men sent to confront the dissident writer and bring him back home, plus a driver and two diplomatic staffers who were at the scene. In addition, the crown prince fired a close aide, the deputy director of Saudi intelligence and other high-ranking intelligence officials. In Washington, a member of the House Intelligence Committee – Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. – scoffs at the latest explanation. "If Khashoggi was fighting inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, he was fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him," says the congressman, who participated in a classified briefing on what U.S. agencies believe happened.

The case earns heavy U.S. news coverage for multiple reasons: The Saudis are close allies. Khashoggi has lived in Virginia, near Washington, since going into self-exile. He wrote regularly for The Washington Post, which last week published his final commentary. President Trump, who has met and praised the crown prince, credits him with belatedly taking "good first steps." Trump pledges to consider "some form of sanction" in response to the mysterious death, but doesn’t want to cancel $110 billion worth of arms sales to the Saudis. White House press secretary Sarah Sanders says: "We will continue to closely follow the international investigations into this tragic incident and advocate for justice that is timely, transparent and in accordance with all due process." The president hopes to avoid rupturing U.S.-Saudi relations, which are at "their lowest point in more than 40 years," veteran journalist Dextrer Filkins writes in the New Yorker magazine.

Jamal Khashoggi wrote: "Arab governments have been given free rein to continue silencing the media at an increasing rate. . . . The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power." – From his last Washington Post column, published Oct. 17

Saudi defender says: "For [Mohammad bin Salman] to have the courage to come out now and admit to what has happened, to make a 180-degree turn in the narrative, frankly shows more courage than most politicians who have initially fallen into the cover-up trap." – Ali Shihabi, founder of The Arabia Foundation, a research center in Washington, D.C.

White House says: "We are saddened to hear confirmation of Mr. Khashoggi's death, and we offer our deepest condolences to his family, fiancée and friends." – Sarah Sanders, presidential press secretary

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for, Copyright 2019
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