The US State Department barred entry to 16 Saudi citizens on Monday over what it said as their role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year.
The announcement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo comes as the administration of President Donald Trump has faced pressure from Congress over its response to the killing in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October, which sparked unprecedented international scrutiny of the kingdom’s human rights record.
A statement by the State Department listed the individuals and said that they had been designated under under Section 7031(c) of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act of 2019.
The section “provides that, in cases where the Secretary of State has credible information that officials of foreign governments have been involved in significant corruption or gross violations of human rights, those individuals and their immediate family members are ineligible for entry into the United States.
“The law requires the Secretary of State to publicly or privately designate such officials and their immediate family members.”
The State Department previously revoked the visas of nearly two dozen Saudi officials and froze the assets of 17 others.
A critic of the Saudi regime, Khashoggi was killed and dismembered October 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by a team of 15 agents sent from Riyadh. His body has never been recovered.
After having denied the murder, Saudi Arabia said the operation was carried out by agents who were out of control. A trial of 11 suspects opened earlier this year in Saudi Arabia.
But much of the case remains shrouded, beginning with the role of Saudi Arabia’s powerful crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman.
The US Senate, after a closed-door briefing by the CIA, adopted a resolution in December naming the crown prince as “responsible” for the murder, while President Donald Trump has refused to publicly take a stand.