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'Post': Children Of Slain Journalist Receive Payments From Saudi Arabia

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The children of Jamal Khashoggi have begun receiving compensation. Khashoggi was the journalist from Saudi Arabia who vanished last year. After initial denials, Saudi authorities now acknowledge he was killed after he walked into a Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. The newspaper that once published Khashoggi's columns, The Washington Post, now reports on apparent early moves toward paying blood money to Khashoggi's relations.

Greg Miller reported this story for The Post. Good morning, sir.

GREG MILLER: Good morning.

INSKEEP: What have the children been paid?

MILLER: Well, so far, they've gotten houses in Jeddah, a city on the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia. They've also gotten monthly stipends, or monthly payments, of about $10,000 to $15,000 per month.

INSKEEP: Although it sounds like, from your reporting, that's just the beginning. You report negotiations for possible larger payments. What would they be?

MILLER: Yeah. So this is - this happens in sort of two stages. These were payments that were approved by the king late last year for the family. But going forward, you know, there are cases; there are prosecutions underway in Saudi Arabia. When those conclude, there would be an opening for discussions for far more money. And that's where you get into the real sort of blood money situation or scenario. Those could be millions and millions of dollars (inaudible)...

INSKEEP: Now, we should just underline that. I mean, we understand, from civil lawsuits in the United States, the idea of punitive damages. Blood money, I guess, is somewhat similar but also different. This is a way to wipe away a killing rather than the family of the victim having to seek revenge. Is that right?

MILLER: Yeah, that's right. I mean, it's more cultural. It's obviously a very different system. But it does require, usually, for the victims to absolve, in this case, the killers - or at least be willing to say that the expected death penalty - prosecutors are seeking the death penalty in Saudi Arabia. The family might be asked or required to waive the death penalty in these cases.

INSKEEP: Well, could payments like this then allow the defendants in this case - who obviously are either wealthy or supported by very wealthy people - allow the defendants to buy their way out of criminal punishments of any kind?

MILLER: I think that's conceivable. But I think, in this case, there would still be punishment. It would - they would probably still be incarcerated, although it's a very opaque process. So it's not very clear. I mean, this is - these are not trials like in the United States where you can go in and watch the court proceedings unfold day after day. These are all very cloaked processes in Saudi Arabia.

INSKEEP: Looming behind all of this, of course, is the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, who's denied any culpability and, of course, is not on trial in any way. Does blood money offer him a way to wipe this case away without facing any particular accountability?

MILLER: Well, it - not completely. But it does - you know, the Khashoggi children have been awfully restrained in their public positions about all of this. Right? They have not condemned the kingdom. They've not gone after Mohammed bin Salman. And this is a way to making sure they sort of stay quiet. This is a way for that to happen.

It also achieves one other thing, I think, for the crown prince, which is - you know, these are people who are on trial now for large - for apparent - according to U.S. intelligence agencies, for executing his orders. For them to be killed and for there to be no punishments for higher-ups would look bad.

INSKEEP: Mr. Miller, thanks very much for the update - really appreciate it.

MILLER: Thank you.

INSKEEP: Washington Post reporter Greg Miller, he's been reporting on early efforts to pay compensation and efforts toward paying blood money to the relations of Jamal Khashoggi. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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