U.S. bars entry to ex-Saudi consul general in Istanbul over Khashoggi murder

The United States has barred the former Consul General of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul from entering the country over his alleged role in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey in 2018.

Mohammed al Otaibi received the new sanctions on Tuesday, the Independent reported citing U.S. State Department officials. 

Otaibi served as consul general of Riyadh in Istanbul before being removed from his post a day after the killing of Khashoggi on Oct. 2 last year.

The Washington Post contributor went missing after entering the consulate on the day he was killed to obtain a legal document so he could marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.

"The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was a heinous, unacceptable crime. Our action today is another important step in responding to Khashoggi’s killing," the Independent quoted the department as saying in a statement.

As a prominent critic of Saudi's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Khashoggi had reportedly sought assurances of his safety before visiting the consulate the first time on Sept. 28, 2018.

Turkish press reports said the killing had been carried out by a 15-member team sent from Saudi Arabia, which included seven of Prince Salman’s personal bodyguards.

In June, a 100-page UN Special Report said Khashoggi’s murder was an “international crime”, calling it “an arbitrary and extrajudicial execution for which the State of Saudi Arabia is responsible”.

Saudi authorities have reportedly begun the trial of 11 people for the killing, seeking the death penalty for five of them.