By Umar Farooq
WASHINGTON (AA) – A U.S. congressman on Wednesday urged President Donald Trump to “get activated” on the disappearance of Saudi journalist and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Gerry Connolly said there should be an independent and international investigation into the matter.
“The Saudis cannot escape accountability and responsibility,” he said.
If reports of Khashoggi’s death are true, Connolly said it would "represent a new low on the part of a sovereign state in another sovereign state, turning a consulate into an abattoir.”
The congressman spoke at a news conference in front of the Washington Post’s headquarters in Washington D.C. and was joined by figures from the Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR) and Pen America.
Khashoggi has been missing since visiting the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul Oct. 2.
According to Turkish police sources, 15 Saudis, including several officials who arrived on two planes, entered the consulate while Khashoggi was inside.
Prosecutors are investigating the incident, while the consulate said it is working in coordination with Turkish authorities.
A citizen of Saudi Arabia, Khashoggi served as editor of multiple Saudi newspapers, including Arab News and Al-Watan.
During his residency in the U.S., he lived in northern Virginia and is a contributor to the Washington Post.
“Jamal Khashoggi is my constituent," Connolly said. “My district has citizens and non-citizens alike. And they are entitled to the protection of the United States and United States law and diplomatic activity not their behalf.”
“If the Saudis are responsible for the crime, you don’t ask the criminal to investigate himself,” Connolly added.
Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton and senior advisor Jared Kushner spoke with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman about Khashoggi on Tuesday, according to a statement by the White House.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also spoke to Salman in a "follow up call" that sought to request more details and called on the Saudi government to be "transparent".
Nihad Awad, the director of CAIR, said within the 25 years he has known Khashoggi, he never saw him as an opposition leader, but as a journalist that liked to analyze issues and speak out for people who have been silenced.
Awad, along with others, said they are clinging to hopes Khashoggi is alive.
“I, until now, do not want to believe that he is no longer alive. I believe that we need answers,” Awad said. “The burden of the proof lies squarely on the Saudi officials.”
“We want to believe he is alive, but I don’t believe it. I believe that he is dead. And you know why? Because I know what the Saudi government is capable of," said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the human rights group Code Pink.