- 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)
Thousands Flee Syria as Turkey Launches Military Offensive
- Turkey formally started a military offensive in Syria Wednesday, launching airstrikes, bombs, and sending in ground troops.
- Numerous civilian and military deaths have been reported, and an estimated 60,000 Syrians have fled the region.
- The move comes after the Trump administration announced it would step aside to let Turkey launch a military operation against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.
- Many world leaders and U.S. lawmakers, including Republicans who have been staunch supporters of President Trump, condemned the move, with some arguing that Trump will be responsible for the fallout.
Turkey Launches Offensive
Turkish military forces have entered the second day of an offensive against U.S.-backed Kurdish forces in Syria.
The assault started on Wednesday with Turkish forces launching airstrikes, bombing and shelling the territory. Several hours later, Turkish troops crossed the border into Northern Syria, officially starting a ground offensive.
The move comes just days after the White House announced that the U.S. would be stepping aside to allow Turkey to go forward with the long-planned operation while also removing U.S. troops from the region.
The announcement appeared to follow a call between President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan has said that this military operation is necessary to secure Turkey’s border with Syria and clear groups Turkey believes are terrorists. The operation targets the Kurdish groups that largely control that region of Northern Syria.
Specifically, the People’s Protection Unit (YPG) which makes up most of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). Turkey claims that those groups are allied with a separatist movement called the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) which has been responsible for violent attacks in Turkey.
While Turkey considers the SDF a terrorist group, the U.S. does not. U.S. forces in Syria have recruited and trained the SDF for years to fight alongside them, and the SDF has done the majority of fighting on the ground against ISIS fighters in the region.
For a while, the U.S. has discouraged Turkey from launching a military operation against the Kurdish forces who have been fighting ISIS with them. But now, many have argued that the U.S. has basically given Turkey the green light to launch a military offensive against their own key allies.
The Numbers So far
Shortly after the operation began, pictures and videos began circulating showing civilians fleeing amid smoke from the sites of the bombings.
The New York Times reported that the airstrikes on the first day alone hit in or near at least five towns along more than 150 miles of the border, while Turkey’s Defense Ministry claimed on Thursday that it has hit 181 of its “terrorist” targets.
The Defense Ministry also said Thursday that 174 militants have already been killed, but that has not been independently verified.
Others have reported lower numbers. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that at least 23 SDF fighters were killed though dozens more were injured
As for civilians, the Kurdish Red Crescent reported that at least 11 civilians have been killed so far, including two children.
The Syrian Observatory also said that more than 60,000 Syrians have already fled the immediate region.
The fact that so many are already fleeing is likely to worsen the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria.
It also appears to complicate Erdogan’s plan to carve out a so-called safe zone at the border where he would return Syrian refugees. Now, many are saying that the military operation will just create more refugees.
World Leaders Respond
Concern over refugees and other humanitarian issues have been raised by numerous world leaders who have condemned Turkey’s actions.
European Union Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini said in a statement that the EU “calls upon Turkey to cease the unilateral military action,” continuing that the operation will “undermine the stability of the whole region, exacerbate civilian suffering and provoke further displacements.”
A spokesperson for the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres also emphasized the need for civilian protections in a statement.
“Civilians and civilian infrastructure should be protected. The secretary-general believes that there’s no military solution to the Syrian conflict,” the spokesperson said.
A number of Middle Eastern leaders have also publicly criticized the move. In a statement, Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry condemned “the aggression launched by the #Turkish army.”
“The seriousness of this aggression on northeastern Syria has negative repercussions on the security and stability of the region, especially undermining the [international] efforts in combating ISIS organization,” the statement continued.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also took to Twitter, where he said that Israel “strongly condemns the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish areas in Syria and warns against the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds by Turkey and its proxies.”
U.S. Leaders Criticize Trump
After Turkey officially launched the military operation, President Trump was swiftly met with outrage by U.S. lawmakers, including notable Republicans who have been staunch supporters of the president.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) directly blamed Trump for the violence in a tweet on Wednesday.
“News from Syria is sickening,” she wrote. “Turkish troops preparing to invade Syria from the north, Russian-backed forces from the south, ISIS fighters attacking Raqqa. Impossible to understand why @realDonaldTrump is leaving America’s allies to be slaughtered and enabling the return of ISIS.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) has also been very vocal in his opposition to the Trump administration’s decision.
“Pray for our Kurdish allies who have been shamelessly abandoned by the Trump Administration,” he said in a tweet. “This move ensures the reemergence of ISIS.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) spoke out on the issue as well, and added that Congress could take action against Trump’s decision,
“[The Kurds] actually fought on the ground. They had people dying. To just abandon them like that so the Turks can come in and slaughter them is not just immoral, it taints our reputation all over the world,” he said.
“It’s a terrible mistake. We’ll have to think of what options there are. I’m sure the Senate will, potentially, take some vote to disagree with that decision.”
Trump Defends Decision
But Trump, for his part, has continued to defend his decision.
In a statement to the media, Trump said that the U.S. “does not endorse this attack and has made it clear to Turkey that this operation is a bad idea,” and added that Turkey is “committed to protecting civilians, protecting religious minorities, including Christians, and ensuring no humanitarian crisis takes place—and we will hold them to this commitment.”
During a press conference on Wednesday, Trump also reiterated that he would crack down on Turkey economically if they did something he did not like in Syria.
However, several of his later remarks received some backlash.
When asked about the U.S. alliance with the Kurds, Trump said: “As somebody wrote in a very, very powerful article today, they didn’t help us in the Second World War, they didn’t help us with Normandy as an example. They mentioned names of different battles. But they’re there to help us with their land and that’s a different thing.”
He was also asked by reporters whether he was concerned about ISIS fighters breaking free from Kurdish custody, to which he responded, “Well they’re going to be escaping to Europe. That’s where they want to go, they want to go back to their homes.”
Mexican Mayor Dragged Through Streets After Failing to Fulfill Campaign Promise
- Angry residents of a small town in Southern Mexico stormed a local mayors office, pulled him out of the building, tied him to a pickup truck, and dragged him through the streets.
- The mob was upset with the mayor for failing to build a road into the community, which was a major promise made during his election campaign.
- Eleven people were arrested and charged with abduction and attempted murder.
Mob Storms Mayors Office
Eleven people were arrested in Chiapas, Mexico on Tuesday after pulling the mayor of Las Margaritas out of his office, tying him the back of a pickup truck, and dragging him through the streets.
During his election campaign, Mayor Jorge Luis Escandón Hernández promised to build a road to the indigenous Tojolabal community of Santa Rita Invernadero, which is located in the municipality of Las Margaritas.
However, locals are outraged that he has failed to follow through on that promise and have made their frustrations clear.
The angry mob stormed his office to complain about the road issue. According to the Mexican news outlet Excélsior, some municipal employees tried to stop the group who were armed with sticks and tubes, but they eventually made their way into the building.
Video taken by bystanders showed several people pulling the mayor out of his office and forcing him into a truck.
Another clip from a local surveillance camera showed the mayor being dragged from the back of the truck through the streets.
The mayor was dragged for several blocks before he was eventually rescued by state police. The incident also sparked a brawl between police and locals which ultimately resulted in 20 injuries and the 11 arrests, local reports say.
Mayor Escandón is “safe and sound,” according to a news release by the State Attorney General’s office. He was reviewed by medical experts but suffered no major injuries.
During a press conference a few hours after the attack, the mayor said those arrested would be charged with abduction and attempted murder, according to BBC.
Similar Attacks Against Politicians
This was the second attack directed at Mayor Escandón this year by an angry mob of locals fighting for the construction of the road. Four months ago, a group of men trashed his office when they were unable to find him inside.
Attacks on political figures are not uncommon in Mexico. According to The Washington Post, politicians are often targetted by criminal organizations for not complying with gang demands.
In more recent cases, however, locals have been lashing out against political figures for their empty promises. In April 2018, 200 Las Margaritas residents kidnapped 24 municipal, state and federal government employees to demand that a road be built by then-Mayor José Domingo Vázquez López, according to Mexico News Daily.
The employees were held hostage when the mob went to request a meeting with the mayor. After seeing that he was not in the office, the angry group took the employees and destroyed the building.
Months before that incident, Vázquez was held captive for days because he failed to follow through on an agreement to build a road, according to Vanguardia.
Are You At Risk? Why the “Revenge Porn” Problem Is Only Getting Worse…
For years now Revenge Porn has been in the spotlight, popping up whenever a celebrity has their nude images leaked by an ex-partner or hacked from their phone’s cloud service. But the term “Revenge Porn” has been met with criticism, facing pushback because the term “revenge” implies the victim deserved it. Instead, researchers and activists have moved towards using the term Nonconsensual Pornography (NCP).
NCP doesn’t just include revenge porn, but also things like hacks, child pornography, and even casually sharing and showing a nude someone sent you to another third-party. Research shows that a large percentage of everyday people take part in NCP, often without realizing that what they’re doing is wrong.
Groups like the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative have pushed for new laws to be put in place to punish the spread of NCP, and it’s having effects. In the U.S., 46 states, DC, and a territory have enacted some kind of law banning NCP, or it’s various forms. Although there’s yet to be a federal law banning it specifically.