Saudi Arabia has contested the findings of a US report that claimed Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The newly declassified US intelligence report released on Friday claimed Saudi Arabia's crown prince likely approved an operation to kill or capture journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The Saudi Foreign Ministry responded in a statement saying it "completely rejects the negative, false and unacceptable assessment" in the document, which it claimed includes false information.
"The concerned individuals were convicted and sentenced by the courts in the Kingdom, and these sentences were welcomed by the family of Jamal Khashoggi, may he Rest In Peace," the statement read.
The report could escalate pressure on the Biden administration to hold the kingdom accountable for a murder that drew bipartisan and international outrage.
The central conclusion of the report was widely expected given that intelligence officials were said to have reached it soon after the brutal October 2, 2018 murder of Saudi native Khashoggi, a critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s authoritarian consolidation of power.
International players reiterated calls for accountability after the report was released.
The British foreign office in a statement "called for a thorough, credible and transparent investigation to hold those responsible to account and imposed sanctions against 20 Saudis involved in the murder".
"The Foreign Secretary raised the issue during his visit to Riyadh last year, and we continue to raise it in our engagements with the Saudi government," it added.
Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, said in a Facebook post that the report confirmed "Saudi officials’ culpability at the highest levels".
"The United States should now take the lead in ensuring accountability for this crime and for setting in place the international mechanisms to prevent and punish such acts in the future,” she wrote.
"The United States government should impose sanctions against the Crown Prince, as it has done for the other perpetrators – targeting his personal assets but also his international engagements," she added.
The report was released one day after a later-than-usual courtesy call from Biden to Saudi King Salman.
In contrast, former US President Donald Trump had called King Salman during his first week in office and his first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia.
Neither the Saudi nor the US readout of the call mentioned the report, which is expected to be declassified and released to the public soon, but the US president said earlier in the week that he had read it.
President Biden "affirmed the importance the United States places on universal human rights and the rule of law," according to the White House readout of a call that came later than other diplomatic calls with world leaders.
Khashoggi had visited the Saudi consulate in Turkey planning to pick up documents needed for his wedding.
Once inside, he died at the hands of more than a dozen Saudi security and intelligence officials and others who had assembled ahead of his arrival.
Surveillance cameras had tracked his route and those of his alleged killers in Istanbul in the hours leading up to his killing.
A Turkish bug planted at the consulate reportedly captured the sound of a forensic saw, operated by a Saudi colonel who was also a forensics expert, dismembering Khashoggi’s body within an hour of his entering the building. The whereabouts of his remains is still unknown.
The prince said in 2019 he took “full responsibility” for the killing since it happened on his watch, but denied ordering it. Saudi officials have said Khashoggi’s murder was the work of rogue Saudi security and intelligence officials.
Saudi Arabian courts last year announced they had sentenced eight Saudi nationals to prison in Khashoggi’s killing. They were not identified.