- The children of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi have each received $4 million houses, and are receiving over $10,000 every month from the Saudi government as “compensation” for their father’s murder.
- The Saudi government has sentenced five people to death for their involvement in the killing, and if they are convicted, Khashoggi’s family can agree to forego the sentences in favor of receiving tens of millions of dollars apiece in “blood money” under Saudi law.
- U.S. intelligence agencies, the U.S. Senate, and an independent investigation by the U.N. have all concluded that Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman orchestrated the killing, but the Trump administration has repeatedly denied his involvement.
Khashoggi Family “Compensated”
The children of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi have received million-dollar houses in Saudi Arabia and five-figure monthly payments as compensation from the Saudi government, Saudi officials and individuals close to the Khashoggi family told reporters on Monday.
Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist who left the country over fear for his safety and lived a resident in the U.S. On Oct. 2, Khashoggi entered a Saudi consulate in Turkey where he was later killed.
Since October, the Saudi’s have continually shifted their story about what happened to Khashoggi. They have repeatedly denied that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, or the Saudi government ordered the killing or had any knowledge of it beforehand.
According to the officials and other sources, the houses given to Khashoggi’s children are worth $4 million apiece, and individual payments of $10,000 or more are made to every one of the siblings each month.
One official told the Washington Post that this agreement was approved last year by King Salman himself. The official also described the payments as an acknowledgment that “a big injustice has been done” and an attempt “to make a wrong right.”
In addition to the houses and monthly payments, all of Khashoggi’s four children could also receive tens of millions of dollars each in separate payouts from negotiations when the trials of Khashoggi’s accused killers end.
Back in November, Saudi officials indicted 11 people involved in Khashoggi’s killing and announced that they were seeking the death penalty for five of those people. Those trials began in January, and are expected to conclude in the next few months.
Unlike damages paid to victims in the American justice system, these payments to the siblings are viewed by many as “blood money.”
Accepting blood money is not uncommon in Saudi Arabia, it is a normal and legal practice in the Saudi legal system.
Five of the suspects in the Khashoggi case could face the death penalty, and if those suspects are convicted, there are two options. Either the suspects are sentenced to death, or the Khashoggi family could request financial compensation as an alternate punishment.
It is not clear whether the family would have to pardon the killers in order to get the money.
However, this kind of agreement could close the case under Saudi law. Which would mean that MBS or his senior aides that are believed to be involved in the murder would never have to face any kind of trial.
Khashoggi’s children have been extremely quiet about the whole ordeal. Back in November, his two daughters published an op-ed in the Washington Post about remembering their father.
In the op-ed, they wrote their father was not a dissident, but did not place any blame on MBS or the Saudi government. Since the story of “blood money” payments has come out, some have criticized the Saudi government of silencing Khashoggi’s children.
One Saudi official pushed back against this, saying that these kind of payments are part of Saudi Arabia’s long-standing practice of providing financial support to victims of violent crime.
“Such support is part of our custom and culture,” said the official, “It is not attached to anything else.”
Donald Trump Denies Saudi Involvement
It has been almost exactly six months since Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate.
Much has changed and developed over the last half a year, but one thing that remains constant is Donald Trump’s continued refusal to place any blame on MBS or the Saudi government.
In November, the CIA finished an investigation into the murder that concluded that MBS had ordered Khashoggi’s killing. The CIA came to this conclusion based on intercepted communications, but had no direct evidence implicating MBS.
The report has remained sealed from the public, but the president, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and other top officials have been briefed on the matter.
Trump responded to the investigation by outright denying the CIA’s findings, and saying he believed MBS. In an interview with Fox News in November, Trump said, “He [MBS] told me had nothing to do with it. He told me that, I would say, maybe 5 times, at different points.”
“But at the same time, we do have an ally, and I wanna stick with an ally that in many ways has been very good,” the president said.
Then, in December, CIA director Gina Haspel briefed senators on the Foreign Relations Committee on the CIA’s report in a closed-door meeting. The senators came out of that meeting convinced that MBS had ordered the killing.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a strong supporter of Trump told reporters, “You can be assured it was thorough and the evidence is overwhelming.”
“It is zero chance, zero, that this happened in such an organized fashion without the crown prince,” said Sen. Graham, “The reason they don’t draw the conclusion that he’s complicit is because the administration doesn’t want to go down that road — not because there’s not evidence to suggest it.”
Following the briefing with Haspel, the lawmakers unanimously approved a measure that stated the U.S. Senate believed MBS was responsible for Khashoggi’s murder, in a massive rebuke of Trump.
The Senate also voted in favor of ending U.S. involvement in the Saudi-led war in Yemen in yet another rebuke of Trump.
The U.S. is not alone in its findings. In February, Agnes Callamard, the U.N. human rights expert leading an independent inquiry into the murder released her preliminary observations from her visit to Turkey.
Among other things, Callamard stated in her findings that the evidence presented to her team demonstrated that: “Mr. Khashoggi was the victim of a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the State of Saudi Arabia and others acting under the direction of these State agents.”
The day after Callamard released her findings, the Trump administration refused to submit a report to Congress drawing a conclusion about whether or not MBS was responsible for killing Khashoggi.
Trump was required to submit the report under the rules of the Magnitsky Act, which requires the White House to carry out an investigation into any foreign human rights abuses and issue some kind of judgment.
Congress triggered the Magnitsky Act back in October, which gave Trump 120 days to make a determination about the royal family’s responsibility for the murder and then to take some kind of action, usual sanctions in the form of sanctions. Again, Trump refused to comply.
See what others are saying: (Al Jazeera) (The Washington Post) (CBS)
India Pedestrian Bridge Collapsed 4 Days After Renovations, Killing Over 100 People
The company responsible for the upkeep of the Morbi bridge did not obtain a safety certificate before re-opening.
After seven months of renovations, the Morbi walking bridge in India opened to the public. Four days later, the bridge collapsed, killing more than 130 people.
According to the local government, there were about 200 people on the bridge when it collapsed on Sunday, despite its capacity of 125.
During a campaign event on Monday, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the state government had set up a committee to investigate the tragedy.
“I assure the people of the country that there will be nothing lacking in the relief and rescue efforts,” he stated.
Along with the investigation, the state has launched a criminal complaint against Oreva Group, the company responsible for maintaining the bridge. Oreva Group reopened the bridge after renovations without getting a safety certificate from the government.
In response, Oreva Group spoke to a local news outlet and blamed those on the bridge for its collapse.
“While we are waiting for more information, prima facie, the bridge collapsed as too many people in the mid-section of the bridge were trying to sway it from one way to the other,” the group claimed.
The state government has offered compensation for the families of the deceased, but that is not enough for some. One father whose wife and two children died in the collapse told VICE he wants answers and accountability.
“Why were so many people given tickets? Who allowed them? Who is answerable?” he asked.
Indian police have arrested nine people including ticketing clerks and security guards for failing to regulate the crowd, according to Reuters.
Xi Jinping Tightens Grip on China by Eliminating Rivals
Despite the staggering power grab, Xi faces geopolitical competition from abroad as well as social and economic instability at home.
Xi Surrounds Himself With Allies
Chinese President Xi Jinping shook up politics over the weekend when he revealed the government’s new leadership, almost exclusively composed of his own hardline loyalists.
Six men — Li Qiang, Zhao Leji, Wang Huning, Cai Qi, Ding Xuexiang, and Li Xi — will form the Politburo Standing Committee, China’s top ruling body.
The four new members are all Xi loyalists, pushing out Premier Li Keqiang and the head of China’s top advisory body Wang Yang, two key party figures outside Xi’s inner circle who retired despite being eligible to serve another term.
For the first time in a quarter-century, China’s 24-member Politburo will be made up entirely of men, underlining the exclusion of women from Chinese politics.
An official account of the selection process said that a top criterion for leadership was loyalty to Xi, and rising officials must stay in lockstep with him “in thinking, politics and action.”
Topping off the developments, Xi officially secured an unprecedented third term as leader, something that was only made possible in 2018 when the government abolished term limits on the presidency. The weekend marked China’s greatest consolidation of political power in a single figure in decades.
As the 20th Communist Party Congress came to a close Saturday, China’s former leader Hu Jintao appeared reluctant as he was suddenly and inexplicably escorted from his seat next to Xi out of the Great Hall of the People.
Some commentators have argued that a tightly knit band of yes men may help Xi fend off internal party dissent, but it could ultimately result in poor governance as his subordinates fear giving him bad news.
The Arc of History Bends Toward China
Despite the extreme concentration of political power, China’s Communist Party stares down a gauntlet of challenges both foreign and domestic.
Beijing remains locked in a strategic competition with Washington, which has sought to contain the East Asian rival’s rise as a global superpower, but the past week’s congress may portend a stubbornly defiant China for years to come.
Xi is expected to use his firmly secure position within the party to pursue his agenda in full force — by strengthening Beijing’s claim over Taiwan, expanding China’s economic foothold in developing countries, and achieving self-sufficiency in strategic technologies such as semiconductors.
At home, China’s economy has faltered during the pandemic, with high unemployment, low consumption, and slow economic growth putting pressure on a government that stakes much of its legitimacy on promises to deliver prosperity to the population. Between July and September, the country’s GDP grew by 3.9%, according to official data released Monday, which is above many analysts’ expectations but still far below the state’s target of around 5.5%.
China’s National Bureau of Statistics postponed the data’s publication last week ahead of the 20th party congress, reinforcing concerns that Xi’s leadership will put politics before economics.
Monday’s announcement roiled stock markets, with Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index plunging 6%, as well as the Shanghai Composite and the Shenzhen Composite Index both falling by about 2%.
Beijing has also seen increased political resistance from the population, from anti-lockdown protests in Shanghai to widespread mortgage boycotts over delays from real estate developers.
Last week, a man unfurled two large banners from an overpass in Beijing and called President Xi a “dictator” through a megaphone.
Such small-scale demonstrations are not new, but they took place in the capital just before the congress drew enough attention for photos of the stunt to go viral on social media, where an equally swift censorship campaign stamped out any mention of it.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (The Washington Post)
Elon Musk Walks Back Threat to Cut Ukraine’s Starlink Internet Service
Although the satellites have been invaluable for Ukrainian military operations, outages have left soldiers without communication devices in recent weeks.
Let Them Eat Satellites
SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on Saturday that his company would continue funding internet service for Ukraine after declaring that he would have no choice but to cut it off the day prior.
“The hell with it,” he tweeted. “Even though Starlink is still losing money & other companies are getting billions of taxpayer $, we’ll just keep funding Ukraine govt for free.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether the often jocular billionaire was being sarcastic, but in response to another Twitter user he said, “We should still do good deeds.”
SpaceX’s Starlink satellites help the Ukrainian military operate drones, receive intelligence updates and communicate out in the field, which is vital since many regular internet and cellular phone networks have been destroyed by Russia.
At least 20,000 satellite terminals have been donated to Ukraine since the spring, but SpaceX has footed the bill for a small minority of them. According to a letter the company sent to the Pentagon last month, around 85% of the terminals were paid for in part or in full by the United States, Poland, and other entities, who also covered some 30% of the internet connectivity.
SpaceX claimed in the letter that Starlink services for Ukraine would cost over $120 million for the rest of the year and nearly $400 million for the next 12 months.
“We are not in a position to further donate terminals to Ukraine, or fund the existing terminals for an indefinite period of time,” it said.
The company, therefore, requested that the Pentagon take over funding for the satellite terminals.
Earlier this month, Musk claimed on Twitter that Ukraine’s Starlink services had cost SpaceX $80 million so far.
On Friday, following CNN’s publication of the SpaceX letter, Musk reaffirmed that his company “cannot fund the existing system indefinitely, *and* send several thousand more terminals that have data usage up to 100X greater than typical households.”
He added, however, that it was not seeking to recoup past expenses.
On Monday, Politico reported that the Pentagon is considering paying for the Starlink satellite network from a fund that has been used to supply weapons and equipment over the long term, according to two U.S. officials who are involved in the deliberations.
Starlink Leaves Ukraine’s Soldiers Stranded
Ukrainian troops experienced “catastrophic” outages in their Starlink communication devices in recent weeks, according to a Financial Times report earlier this month.
The services reportedly stopped functioning at critical moments, such as when soldiers breached the front lines into Russian-controlled territory or engaged in pitched battles.
“They were acute in the south around the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions, but also occurred along the frontline in eastern Kharkiv, Donetsk and Luhansk,” an official told the outlet.
Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin claimed to annex all four regions and held referendums widely considered to be a sham justification for his conquest of the Donbas.
The regions are also the focus of a massive Ukrainian counteroffensive that has sent Russian troops scrambling in recent weeks.
One Starlink donor reportedly believed the outages were a result of SpaceX’s efforts to block Russian forces from misusing Starlink terminals.
As Ukrainian soldiers liberated Russian-occupied territory, the sources said, public announcements of their gains lagged behind, and so did Starlink’s coverage.
Another official told the outlet that connection failures were widespread and led to panicked calls from soldiers to helplines.
Musk responded to the report by tweeting, “As for what’s happening on the battlefield, that’s classified.”