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Khashoggi Widow Urges White House to Press for Release of Saudi Political Prisoners

The widow of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Hanan Elatr, visits the White House to meet with the Biden administration. Photo shared with the permission of Hanan Elatr. July 12, 2022.
The widow of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Hanan Elatr, visits the White House to meet with the Biden administration. Photo shared with the permission of Hanan Elatr. July 12, 2022.

The widow of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is urging President Joe Biden to press for the release of political prisoners in Saudi Arabia when he travels to the kingdom.

During a meeting at the White House on Tuesday, Hanan Elatr told Biden’s advisers that the president could use his political power “to heal the wound of Jamal, which is the people behind bars.”

Elatr told the Washington Examiner that she shared her plea to Biden “to stand for his vision, which is to support democratic freedoms, justice, and equal rights,” referring to Khashoggi.

The officials said they would deliver Elatr’s message to the president as he departs on a four-day Middle East trip, on which he hopes to secure diplomatic advances between Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Elatr’s attorney, Randa Fahmy, said she is confident that people detained for political differences would be on Biden’s agenda when he meets with Saudi leaders in Jeddah later this week.

“I’m 100% certain that the president is going to raise political prisoners. I’m almost 100% certain he’s going to have the human rights conversation,” she said.

In particular, Fahmy expects Biden to raise the issue of prisoners with dual Saudi and American citizenship.

Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia is wrought with controversy.

In an op-ed ahead of his visit, Biden argued that his administration has turned around the Trump administration’s “blank-check policy” toward Saudi Arabia and is traveling to the kingdom to secure critical priorities for the U.S. public.

But critics, eyeing Biden’s promise to make the “pariah” kingdom “pay” for Khashoggi’s 2018 murder, have asked whether the cost is too high.

Biden declined to punish Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after a U.S. intelligence report deemed him responsible for Khashoggi’s 2018 assassination and, until now, had refrained from engaging him directly.

But Elatr sees an opportunity in repairing frayed U.S. and Saudi ties, asserting that Khashoggi would want to see progress in a “diplomatic way.”

In a June letter to Biden first shared with the Washington Examiner, Elatr had urged the president to demand that her husband’s murderers be held accountable and that other Saudi dissidents be released.

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