TEHRAN (Press Shia) – UK officials have reportedly begun drawing up a list of Saudi security and government officials who could potentially come under sanctions pending the outcome of investigations into the disappearance of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The list being drawn up by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office could be used in case the UK decides to invoke the “Magnitsky amendment,” passed this year, which allows Britain to impose sanctions on foreign officials accused of human rights violations, or to apply restrictions on Saudi trade and travel in coordination with the European Union, a source told the Independent.
Asked to confirm or deny the drawing up of the list, the Foreign Office said it “had nothing to add” to the Khashoggi matter other than comments the foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, made on Thursday.
“Across the world, people who long thought themselves as Saudi’s friends are saying this is a very, very serious matter,” said Hunt. “If these allegations are true there would be serious consequences.”
The source, a former government advisor, said they were briefed by a UK intelligence official and others. “Initially this was a position-paper scenario,” the source said. “Now it is definitely being looked at as a real possibility.”
News of escalating international consequences for Saudi Arabia came as The Washington Post reported that Turks had played audio and video recordings suggesting Khashoggi was tortured and murdered inside his own nation’s Istanbul consulate during a routine 2 October visit.
The possibly gruesome death of Khashoggi at the hands of 15 Saudi security and intelligence personnel dispatched from Riyadh to Istanbul has been discussed by UK cabinet ministers, the source said. “Instructions were given to Treasury and others to identify potential targets for sanctions if it is necessary, which I now am told has geared up considerably in the past 48 hours,” the source said.
On Thursday, Hunt had called for Saudi Arabia to “find” the veteran journalist. “If the Saudis want to bring this to a satisfactory conclusion then we need to find Khashoggi,” he said. “If they are saying these allegations are not true then where is Khashoggi? I can’t see him anywhere and that is what is causing worry.”
Khashoggi is believed to have visited the Istanbul consulate at least twice before 2 October, with reports saying Khashoggi’s appointment was likely pushed back until that date. One Turkish official said that the audio and video recordings show that Khashoggi was assaulted and killed soon after entering the consulate.