Trump concerned over journalist allegedly killed in Saudi consulate

This article is more than 12 months old

WASHINGTON: Allegations that Saudi Arabia killed a journalist inside its Istanbul consulate have forced US President Donald Trump into a position he never expected - raising human rights with the kingdom he has steadfastly supported.

Saudi Arabia was the first foreign destination as president for Mr Trump, who has lavished praise on its ambitious crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and closely allied himself with the kingdom in a push to isolate the Sunni state's regional rival Iran.

Mr Trump had stayed silent on human rights as the US backs the Saudi-led air campaign against rebels in Yemen, which a United Nations report said has killed thousands of civilians, and when Prince Mohammed, often referred to by his initials MBS, detained dozens of people last year in a controversial crackdown.

But Vice-President Mike Pence on Monday declared himself "deeply troubled" by allegations that Mr Jamal Khashoggi, a prominent opinion writer living in the US and contributor to The Washington Post, was killed after he entered the Saudi consulate - saying it would be tragic if true.

Mr Trump himself said he was concerned, while Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged a thorough investigation with transparent findings about the fate of Mr Khashoggi, whom Saudi officials insist left the consulate in Istanbul.

Mr Trump told reporters on Tuesday he knew nothing about Mr Khashoggi's fate.

Critics say Mr Trump contributed to an atmosphere that may have empowered Saudi Arabia to silence a critic abroad.

Mr Trump has repeatedly lashed out at the media, calling it the "enemy of the people", and has raised human rights prominently only when pressuring US antagonists such as Iran and China. - AFP