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INTERNATIONAL

The Jamal Khashoggi disappearance

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Jamal Khashoggi

US President Donald Trump has spoken to Saudi King Salman over the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and has ordered Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “immediately get on a plane” to Saudi Arabia to discuss the situation with the monarch.

After tweeting the development Monday, Trump told White House reporters that the King had “firmly denied any knowledge” of the journalist’s whereabouts. Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post and a Saudi royal insider-turned-critic, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2 and has not been seen since.

“It wasn’t like there was a question in his mind. The denial was very strong,” Trump said of King Salman.

“It sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers, who knows. We are going to try to get to the bottom of it very soon,” Trump said. “But his was a flat denial.”

Turkish authorities believe 15 Saudi men who arrived in Istanbul on October 2 were connected to Khashoggi’s disappearance and possible murder. At least some of them appear to have high-level connections in the Saudi government.

Saudi authorities maintain Jamal Khashoggi left the consulate the same afternoon of his visit, but have provided no evidence of that. Khashoggi’s fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside the consulate, says she did not see him re-emerge.

International pressure is mounting on Riyadh to explain the journalist’s disappearance, in a case that has created a diplomatic rift between Saudi and the West.

The UK, France and Germany have demanded a “credible investigation” into the events and Trump on Sunday warned of serious retribution if the Saudis were found to be behind his possible death.

“There’s something really terrible and disgusting about that if that were the case. So we’re going to have to see,” Trump said in a “60 Minutes” interview broadcast Sunday. “We’re going to get to the bottom of it and there will be severe punishment.”

Saudi officials threatened to retaliate if the US imposed sanctions, but Riyadh later softened its tone.

The case has also caused friction between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, which has repeatedly accused the Saudis of failing to cooperate with their investigation.

A source familiar with the ongoing investigation told CNN on Friday that Turkish authorities have audio and visual evidence that shows journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate.

Saudi officials have granted permission for its consulate to be searched Monday afternoon, a Turkish diplomatic source told CNN. They first granted permission last week but asked for a delay. Turkish officials also want to search the nearby consul general’s residence.

Turkish investigators are pushing for complete access for forensic teams to enter both premises, according to Turkish media reports. It was unclear whether the Saudis would allow the comprehensive search at both locations.

The search developments come a day after King Salman called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the case. The two leaders agreed on a joint working group to look into the journalist’s disappearance.

The Saudi official said that a royal decree was issued Friday directing the public prosecutor to conduct an internal investigation into the Khashoggi case, based on intelligence shared by Turkey with Saudi Arabia.

The official said that although a joint investigation team was cooperating on the ground, the Saudi “leadership had felt that an internal investigation was needed to make sure no stone is left unturned to unfold the truth.”

After tweeting the development Monday, Trump told White House reporters that the King had “firmly denied any knowledge” of the journalist’s whereabouts. Khashoggi, a columnist for The Washington Post and a Saudi royal insider-turned-critic, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2 and has not been seen since.

“It wasn’t like there was a question in his mind. The denial was very strong,” Trump said of King Salman.

A source familiar with the ongoing investigation told CNN on Friday that Turkish authorities have audio and visual evidence that shows journalist Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate.

Saudi Arabia begins to cooperate

Saudi officials have granted permission for its consulate to be searched Monday afternoon, a Turkish diplomatic source told CNN. They first granted permission last week but asked for a delay. Turkish officials also want to search the nearby consul general’s residence.

Turkish investigators are pushing for complete access for forensic teams to enter both premises, according to Turkish media reports. It was unclear whether the Saudis would allow the comprehensive search at both locations.

The search developments come a day after King Salman called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the case. The two leaders agreed on a joint working group to look into the journalist’s disappearance.

The Saudi official said that a royal decree was issued Friday directing the public prosecutor to conduct an internal investigation into the Khashoggi case, based on intelligence shared by Turkey with Saudi Arabia.

The official said that although a joint investigation team was cooperating on the ground, the Saudi “leadership had felt that an internal investigation was needed to make sure no stone is left unturned to unfold the truth.”

International companies pull out

Saudi Arabia’s stock market fell as much as 7% on Sunday amid fears of sanctions. The index recovered some ground later to close 3.5% down.

The market’s drop of as much as 9% since Jamal Khashoggi vanished has wiped out all the market’s gains in 2018, although it is still up 8% from a year ago.

Amid the diplomatic fallout over Khashoggi’s disappearance, international firms are pulling out of a high-profile investment summit, the Future Investment Initiative conference, dubbed “Davos in the Desert,” due to take place later this month in Riyadh and to be hosted by Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The latest high-profile invitee to say they would not attend the conference was the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, a spokesperson confirmed Sunday.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday declined to confirm whether US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin would still be attending the conference in Riyadh, saying the US would “continue to evaluate the facts” t make a decision.

British foreign minister Jeremy Hunt on Sunday urged Saudi Arabia to explain what happened to Jamal Khashoggi, saying: “if they have got nothing to hide, then they will and should cooperate.”

“If, as they say, this terrible murder didn’t happen, then where is Jamal Khashoggi? That’s what the world wants to know,” said Hunt.

Doubts are growing over whether British Trade Secretary Liam Fox will attend the Riyadh conference, the BBC reported Sunday citing diplomatic sources.

But Saudi Arabia has found support in a number of Arab allies, including Oman, Bahrain, Jordan, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which all put out statements Sunday saying they expressed solidarity with Saudi Arabia.

The Palestinian Authority also put out a statement of support.

In a strongly worded op-ed published later on Sunday, Turki Aldakhil, general manager of the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news channel, warned that if the US imposed sanctions on Riyadh “it will stab its own economy to death,” cause oil prices to reach as high as $200 a barrel, lead Riyadh to permit a Russian military base in the city of Tabuk and drive the Middle East into the arms of Iran.

Faisal bin Farhan, a senior adviser at the Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, said on his official Twitter account Sunday that the op-ed “did not reflect the thinking of the Saudi leadership.”

Riyadh later tried to soften its confrontational tone.

The Saudi Embassy in Washington said in a tweet Sunday: “To help clarify recently issued Saudi statement, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia extends its appreciation to all, including the US administration, for refraining from jumping to conclusions on the ongoing investigation,” the statement said.

A delegation from Saudi Arabia arrived in Turkey for the investigation into Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported Friday.

But last week a senior Turkish official speaking on the condition of anonymity told CNN that the Saudis were not cooperating with the investigation: “They are not open to cooperating.”

‘Working assumption’ is murder

A US official familiar with the intelligence told CNN that the US had intercepts of Saudi officials discussing a plan to lure Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him.

Washington’s “working assumption” is that Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate in Istanbul, according to a US official familiar with the latest intelligence. “We are pretty clear-eyed it is likely to have happened and it didn’t end well,” the official said.

The source did caution that this was the latest assessment and no conclusions had been made.

However, last week Trump said he was reluctant to take action, particularly on the issue of arms sales. “There are other things we can do,” he told reporters at the White House.

The US signed a nearly $110 billion defence deal with Saudi Arabia in May 2017, when Trump made Saudi Arabia a stop on his first foreign trip as president.

The stop was seen, in part, as an endorsement of the strong relationship between Trump, Jared Kushner — his son-in-law and senior adviser — and bin Salman.

Over the weekend a US senior administration official said that the US hasn’t really dealt much with the Turks on the Jamal Khashoggi investigation yet because US officials, including the embassy staff, mostly focused last week on repatriating American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was accused of plotting a coup attempt against Erdogan.

Now that Brunson is back in the US, the official said Washington is expecting some information from the Turks. The US also still hasn’t heard anything from the Saudis, and are waiting for some information about what happened, the official said.

CNN

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INTERNATIONAL

UK makes citizenship offer to Hong Kong residents

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Hong Kong British citizenship

Up to three million Hong Kong residents are to be offered the chance to settle in the UK and ultimately apply for citizenship, Boris Johnson has said.

The PM said Hong Kong’s freedoms were being violated by a new security law and those affected would be offered a “route” out of the former UK colony.

About 350,000 UK passport holders, and 2.6 million others eligible, will be able to come to the UK for five years. And after a further year, they will be able to apply for citizenship. British National Overseas Passport holders in Hong Kong were granted special status in the 1980s but currently have restricted rights and are only entitled to visa-free access to the UK for six months.

Under the government’s plans, all British Overseas Nationals and their dependents will be given right to remain in the UK, including the right to work and study, for five years. At this point, they will be able to apply for settled status, and after a further year, seek citizenship.

The PM said Tuesday’s passing of a new security law by the Hong Kong authorities was a “clear and serious breach” of the 1985 Sino-British joint declaration – a legally binding agreement which set out how certain freedoms would be protected for the 50 years after China assumed sovereignty in 1997.

‘New route’
“It violates Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy and threatens the freedoms and rights protected by the joint declaration,” he said.
“We made clear that if China continued down this path we would introduce a new route for those with British National (Overseas) status to enter the UK, granting them limited leave to remain with the ability to live and work in the UK and thereafter to apply for citizenship. And that is precisely what we will do now.”

Foreign Office permanent secretary Sir Simon McDonald expressed the government’s “deep concern” about the new law to China during a meeting with the country’s ambassador Liu Xiaoming.

The UK government has been raising concerns about the national security law and very publicly trying to pressure Beijing into a change heart.
That has clearly failed – so ministers are now fulfilling their promise to allow some three million British Overseas Nationals to come to the UK. This is a significant move and the government wants to send a strong message.

But there will be more pressure now to rethink other elements of our relationship with China – not least the deal to allow Huawei to build parts of the UK’s 5G structures.

Many Tory MPs have been lobbying against that for some time – and this will only add to their concern. Updating MPs on the details, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said there would be no limit on numbers or quotas and the application process would be simple.

“This is a special, bespoke, set of arrangements developed for the unique circumstances we face and in light of our historic commitment to the people of Hong Kong,” he said.

Speaking to ITV’s Peston programme, Mr Raab acknowledged there “would be little we could do to…cohesively force” China to allow British Overseas Nationals to come to the UK.

Downing Street said further details of the scheme will be detailed “in due course”.

In the meantime, British National Overseas Passport holders in Hong Kong will be able to travel to the UK immediately, subject to standard immigration checks, the prime minister’s official spokesman said.

They will also not face salary thresholds to gain their visas, he added. Hong Kong’s new national security law, which targets secession, subversion and terrorism with punishments up to life in prison, came into effect on Tuesday.BBC

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CRIME

Ghislaine Maxwell arrested by FBI

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Ghislaine Maxwell arrested by FBI

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell, an ex-girlfriend of convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein, is facing charges in the US after being arrested by the FBI. She is accused of assisting Epstein’s abuse of minors by helping to recruit and groom victims known to be underage.

She was reportedly arrested in New Hampshire and is due in federal court later on Thursday. Ms Ghislaine Maxwell has previously denied any involvement in or knowledge of Epstein’s alleged sexual misconduct. Jeffrey Epstein died in prison on 10 August as he awaited, without the chance of bail, his trial on sex trafficking charges.

He was arrested last year in New York following allegations that he was running a network of underage girls – some as young as 14 – for sex. His death was determined to be suicide.

Four of the six charges relate to the years 1994-97 when Ghislaine Maxwell was, according to the indictment, among Epstein’s closest associates and also in an “intimate relationship” with him. The other two charges are allegations of perjury in 2016.

The indictment says Ms Maxwell “assisted, facilitated, and contributed to Jeffrey Epstein’s abuse of minor girls by, among other things, helping Epstein to recruit, groom and ultimately abuse victims known to Maxwell and Epstein to be under the age of 18”.

Specifically, she is charged with: Conspiracy to entice minors to travel to engage in illegal sex acts. Enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and transporting a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity.

She is accused of grooming multiple minor girls to engage in sex acts with Epstein. She allegedly attempted to befriend them by asking about their lives and families and then she and Epstein built the friendships by taking minor victims to the cinema or shopping.

Having built a rapport, Ms Ghislaine Maxwell would “try to normalise sexual abuse for a minor victim by discussing sexual topics, undressing in front of the victim, being present when a minor victim was undressed, and/or being present for sex acts involving the minor victim and Epstein”.

“Maxwell and Epstein worked together to entice these minor victims to travel to Epstein’s residences – his residence in New York City on the Upper East Side, as well as Palm Beach, Florida, and Santa Fe, New Mexico,” Audrey Strauss, acting US attorney for the Southern District of New York, told reporters.

“Some of the acts of abuse also took place in Maxwell’s residence in London, England.”The perjury counts relate to depositions she gave to a New York court on 22 April and 22 July 2016. The charge sheet says she “repeatedly lied when questioned about her conduct, including in relation to some of the minor victims”.

“Maxwell lied because the truth, as alleged, was almost unspeakable,” said Ms Strauss.”Maxwell enticed minor girls, got them to trust her, then delivered them into the trap that she and Epstein had set for them. She pretended to be a woman they could trust. All the while she was setting them up to be sexually abused by Epstein and, in some cases, by Maxwell herself.”

What is the background?
Allegations against Epstein had dated back years before the parents of a 14-year-old girl said he had molested her in 2005. Under a legal deal, he avoided federal charges and since 2008 was listed as level three on the New York sex offenders register.

But he was arrested again in New York on 6 July 2019 and accused of sex trafficking of underage girls over a number of years.
Some of Epstein’s alleged victims have accused Ms Ghislaine Maxwell of bringing them into his circle to be sexually abused by him and his friends.
One told the BBC’s Panorama that Ms Maxwell “controlled the girls. She was like the Madam”.

Ms Maxwell has denied any wrongdoing. Earlier this year she sued Epstein’s estate seeking reimbursement for legal fees and security costs. She “receives regular threats to her life and safety”, court documents in that case said.

Another of Epstein’s alleged victims, Virginia Giuffre, has accused Ms Maxwell of recruiting her as a masseuse to the financier at the age of 15.
Details of that allegation against Ms Maxwell emerged in documents unsealed by a US judge last August in a 2015 defamation case but are not part of the charges against Ms Maxwell unveiled in July 2020.

Who is Ghislaine Maxwell?
Ms Maxwell is the daughter of late British media mogul Robert Maxwell. A well-connected socialite, she is said to have introduced Epstein to many of her wealthy and powerful friends, including Bill Clinton and the Duke of York (who was accused in the 2015 court papers of touching a woman at Jeffrey Epstein’s US home, although the court subsequently struck out allegations against the duke).

Buckingham Palace has said that “any suggestion of impropriety with underage minors” by the duke was “categorically untrue”.
Ms Ghislaine Maxwell has mostly been out of public view since 2016. In a BBC interview last year, the Duke of York said he had met Ms Maxwell last year before Epstein was arrested and charged. However they did not discuss Epstein, he said.

Last month a US prosecutor said Prince Andrew had “sought to falsely portray himself” as eager to co-operate with the inquiry into Epstein.
US Attorney Geoffrey Berman said Prince Andrew had “repeatedly declined our request” to schedule an interview.

The duke’s lawyers previously rejected claims he had not co-operated, saying he offered to help three times. Prince Andrew stepped away from royal duties last year. Asked about the prince on Thursday, acting Attorney Strauss said: “I am not going to comment on anyone’s status in this investigation but I will say that we would welcome Prince Andrew coming in to talk with us, we would like to have the benefit of his statement.”BBC

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HEALTH

US buys nearly all of Gilead’s Covid-19 drug Remdesivir

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Remdesivir Covid 19

The US is buying nearly all the next three months’ projected production of Covid-19 treatment Remdesivir from US manufacturer Gilead.

The US health department announced on Tuesday it had agreed to buy 500,000 doses for use in American hospitals. Tests suggest Remdesivir cuts recovery times, though it is not yet clear if it improves survival rates.

Gilead did sign a licensing deal in May for production outside the US but it is still in its early stages.

“President Trump has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorised therapeutic for Covid-19,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. A course of treatment in the US will cost $2,340 (£1,900).

Nine companies can make the drug under licence outside the US for distribution in 127 mostly poorer countries, and the cost is lower. But the project is still in its early stages.

Additional quantities are being manufactured for use in clinical trials. But critics say the US move to buy up so much stock from Gilead itself undermines international co-operation on COVID, given that other countries have taken part in trials of Remdesivir, originally an anti-viral against Ebola.

“The trial that gave the result that allowed Remdesivir to sell their drug wasn’t just done in the US. There were patients participating through other European countries, in the UK as well, and internationally, Mexico and other places,” Oxford University’s Prof Peter Horby told BBC Radio 4.

He said the move also had implications for any possible future vaccine, with the need for “a much stronger framework if we are going to develop these things and they’re going to be used for national emergencies”.

Senior Sussex University lecturer, Ohid Yaqub, said: “It so clearly signals an unwillingness to co-operate with other countries and the chilling effect this has on international agreements about intellectual property rights.”Some in the US have criticised the purchase price, as taxpayer money had helped fund Remdesivir’s development.BBC

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