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US PRESIDENT Donald Trump lined up behind Saudi Arabia today as he hit out at those judging the despotic Gulf state as “guilty until proved innocent” over the killing of a dissident journalist.
Mr Trump compared the condemnation over the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi to the allegations of sexual harassment made against recent Supreme Court appointee Brett Kavanaugh.
“I think we have to find out what happened first. Here we go again with, you know, ‘you’re guilty until proven innocent.’ I don’t like that,” he said.
He had previously shielded the Saudi authorities when he suggested the murder could have been carried out by “rogue killers” after an interrogation went wrong.
It is now accepted that Mr Khashoggi died after he entered the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2 to obtain routine papers for his forthcoming wedding.
According to reports, an audio recording details a gruesome murder, during which his fingers were cut off, before he was dismembered.
It is alleged that Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy — head of forensics in the Saudi general security department — flew into Turkey as part of a 15-member team that played a role in the killing of Mr Khasoggi.
A source claimed that Mr Tubaigy advised members of the team to put headphones on to mask the screams as they cut up Mr Khashoggi’s body while he was still alive.
Turkish media reported that the consulate had been cleaned and partly repainted prior to today’s planned joint search of the premises.
Mr Trump wants to blame individuals — perhaps even the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — to avoid a sanctions war with Saudi Arabia.
Mr Trump fears the impact that countermeasures could have on military and defence contracts. The US supplies billions of dollars worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, which is accused of war crimes over the bombing of Yemen, whose people are facing the worst famine for 100 years according to the UN.
Reports earlier this year suggested a rift between Saudi King Salman and his son Mohammed over international issues. Rumours circulated that the king wanted the crown prince removed and tensions increased after the cancellation of the sale of 5 per cent of Aramco.
Selling off the state-owned oil company was central to the crown prince’s Vision 2030 project, aiming to diversify his country’s economy and make it less reliant on oil.
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