WASHINGTON — The United States will ban entry of foreigners who threaten dissidents and will immediately restrict 76 Saudis in honor of the slain Jamal Khashoggi, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday.
After President Joe Biden declassified a report that pinned blame on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over Khashoggi’s 2018 killing in Istanbul, Blinken vowed the administration will “push back against governments that reach beyond their borders to threaten and attack journalists and perceived dissidents for exercising their fundamental freedoms.” It did not sanction or otherwise target the crown prince.
“We have made absolutely clear that extraterritorial threats and assaults by Saudi Arabia against activists, dissidents and journalists must end. They will not be tolerated by the United States,” Blinken said in a statement.
Under the new “Khashoggi ban,” the United States will restrict any individuals who have engaged in “serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities” that include harassment of journalists or their families, Blinken said.
In a first implementation, Blinken said the United States will ban the entry of 76 Saudis who have been engaged in threatening dissidents overseas including in the Khashoggi case.
The US also imposed sanctions on an elite Saudi unit as well as a former intelligence official over their role in the killing.
The Treasury Department said it would block assets and criminalize transactions with the Rapid Intervention Force, which a declassified intelligence report said was answerable to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, as well as former intelligence official Ahmad al-Assiri.
“Those involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi must be held accountable,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.
“The United States stands united with journalists and political dissidents in opposing threats of violence and intimidation.”
US President Joe Biden declassified an intelligence report that found that Crown Prince Mohammed ordered the 2018 killing of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The report said that seven of the 15 members of the hit squad belonged to the Rapid Intelligence Force.
Assiri, part of the crown prince’s inner circle, was exonerated in a closed-door trial in Saudi Arabia that was sharply criticized by rights groups.