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‘Guilty until proven innocent’? Trump defends Saudi Arabia from rush to judgment in Khashoggi case

‘Guilty until proven innocent’? Trump defends Saudi Arabia from rush to judgment in Khashoggi case
US President Donald Trump is pushing back on accusations that Saudi Arabia killed a journalist inside a consulate in Turkey, calling them a case of holding Riyadh “guilty until proven innocent.”

“Here we go again with you're guilty until proven innocent,” the president told AP in an interview on Tuesday evening, when asked about the widespread condemnation of Saudi Arabia over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

He compared the outcry against the Saudis to the allegations of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation to the US Supreme Court. Kavanaugh was eventually confirmed after the FBI investigation found no corroborating evidence for the charges.

Khashoggi, an outspoken critic of the current royals in Riyadh, disappeared two weeks ago after he entered a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. The Washington Post columnist was not observed leaving the building, and the US media have cited anonymous Turkish sources to report that he was murdered and dismembered inside.

A team of Turkish and Saudi investigators visited the consulate on Monday, but no official results of the visit have been made public.

Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman  have both denied any knowledge about what might have happened to Khashoggi. Following Trump’s comments about the possibility that “rogue killers” might have been involved, several US media outlets reported that a Saudi probe was expected to paint Khashoggi’s death as a result of a botched rendition and interrogation. They once again cited anonymous sources, however.

Trump told AP his comment about “rogue killers” was informed by his “feeling” of the conversation with King Salman.

A number of high-profile business, media and finance executives have bowed out of a major investment conference in Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi affair. Last week, the US Senate asked Trump to open a Global Magnitsky Act investigation into the journalist’s disappearance, which would result in sanctions against persons or governments found responsible. One senator even asked for suspending the sale of US military equipment to the Saudis, which Trump has so far been reluctant to do.

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