Son of murdered journalist Khashoggi leaves Saudi Arabia for US

Son of murdered journalist Khashoggi leaves Saudi Arabia for US

RIYADH - AFP/AP
Son of murdered journalist Khashoggi leaves Saudi Arabia for US

Salah Khashoggi shakes hands with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after being 'invited' to receive condolences.

The eldest son of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Salah, and his family have left the Gulf kingdom for Washington after the government lifted a travel ban, Human Rights Watch said Oct. 25.

Salah Khashoggi’s departure came after he was photographed on Oct. 24 with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman during a condolence visit, staring coldly as the pair shook hands.

"Salah and his family are on a plane to (Washington) DC," Sarah Leah Whitson, the rights watchdog’s executive director for the Middle East and North Africa, told AFP, citing a family friend.

Saudi Arabia’s pro-government Okaz newspaper said Salah -- a dual US-Saudi citizen -- departed the kingdom on Oct. 24, without offering any details.

Saudi officials did not respond to requests for comment, but Whitson said that they were apparently allowed to leave after a travel ban on Salah was lifted.

Salah will join his other siblings who are based in the US, friends of the family told AFP.

Murder of Khashoggi 'premeditated': Saudi prosecutor
Murder of Khashoggi premeditated: Saudi prosecutor

"Jamal’s family needs a place to be together where they feel safe to mourn their beloved one," said Randa Slim, director of conflict resolution at the Washington-based Middle East Institute, who knew the slain journalist personally.

"It is tragic that it took his death to get the Saudi authorities to grant them the freedom to travel," Slim told AFP.

A State Department spokesman said the U.S. welcomes the decision by Saudi Arabia to let the son of Khashoggi leave the country .

Spokesman Robert Palladino said Oct. 25 that U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "made it clear to Saudi leaders that he wanted Salah Khashoggi to return to the United States, and we are pleased that he is now able to do so."

Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor, was killed on October 2 after a visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain paperwork before marrying his Turkish fiancee.

After first insisting Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, Saudi authorities said he was killed in an argument that degenerated into a brawl.

Turkish police investigating water sample from Saudi consulate well
Turkish police investigating water sample from Saudi consulate well

Riyadh finally accepted on Thursday what Turkey had said virtually from the start -- that he was killed in a premeditated hit.

Saudi King Salman and Prince Mohammed met Salah and Khashoggi’s brother Sahel at the royal palace in Riyadh on Tuesday.

The photo of the handshake with Prince Mohammed, who has faced a torrent of global criticism over the killing, went viral on social media, where rights activists demanded the immediate lifting of the travel ban.

Whitson said the end of travel restrictions on Salah had come as a huge relief.

But she added: "We should keep in mind there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in Saudi Arabia who face travel bans and are held in detention without any justice."

Saudi Arabia has sought to draw a line under the crisis over Khashoggi’s murder, but has come under mounting pressure from sceptical world powers demanding answers and the whereabouts of his body.

US President Donald Trump has derided the killing as "one of the worst cover-ups" in history.

Saudi Arabia still has questions to answer over Khashoggi: Turkish FM
Saudi Arabia still has questions to answer over Khashoggi: Turkish FM

Jamal Khashoggi, murder plot, Saudi Arabia