Jamal Khashoggi had long been critical of Saudi Arabia, but it wasn't until the journalist criticized Donald Trump in 2016 that he was put on a blacklist by the Saudi government.
The Washington Post journalist is presumed dead after going missing in the Saudi consulate in Turkey. Audio collected by the Turkish government reportedly shows that he was tortured and killed by a team of Saudi agents, with his body being dismembered. While the worldwide pressure on the Saudi government mounts, a newly resurfaced report shows that Khashoggi was initially targeted by the Saudi government for his criticism of American President Donald Trump.
The Independent had reported about Khashoggi's ban from Saudi Arabia in 2016, noting that he was banished from his home country after criticizing Trump shortly after his election.
"A Saudi Arabian journalist and commentator has been banned by his country for criticizing US President-elect Donald Trump," the report noted. "Jamal Khashoggi has been banned from writing in newspapers, making TV appearances and attending conferences, Middle East Eye reports."
A Saudi government official even released a statement at the time noting that Khashoggi did not speak for the government, distancing itself from his criticism of then-President Elect Donald Trump.
"The author Jamal Khashoggi does not represent the government of Saudi Arabia or its positions at any level, and … his opinions only represent his personal views, not that of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," the official noted (via Common Dreams).
The connection between the Saudi government's decision to ban Jamal Khashoggi and the journalist's criticism of Donald Trump has come into sharper focus, especially given Trump's reluctance to condemn the Saudi government for the attack. Despite international consensus that Khashoggi was murdered by Saudi agents at the behest of the Saudi government, Trump has pushed back against suggestions that the United States respond to the killing. Trump openly said he did not want the killing to risk interfering with an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, and said there should be no rush to judgment.
"Here we go again with you know you're guilty until proven innocent," Trump told The Associated Press in an interview at the White House this week.Trump also compared the presumption that the Saudi government was behind Jamal Khashoggi's killing to the multiple allegations of sexual assault against then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.
"I don't like that," Donald Trump said. "We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh, and he was innocent all the way as far as I'm concerned."