BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she doesn’t accept Saudi Arabia’s explanation on the death of government critic Jamal Khashoggi, as European leaders pressed the kingdom to come clean on how he was killed.
While President Donald Trump called the Saudi response and admission that Khashoggi was killed at its consulate in Istanbul a “good first step,” Merkel portrayed the “horrific events” surrounding the journalist’s killing as a warning that democratic freedoms are under assault across the globe.
“They still haven’t been cleared up and of course we demand that they be cleared up,” Merkel told a regional convention of her Christian Democratic Union party in eastern Germany on Saturday.
With Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the US rejecting Saudi Arabia’s account on Friday that Khashoggi died during “an argument” in the consulate, Danish Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen also said he was unconvinced.
“The fact that the Saudis last night confirmed that he died, after previously insisting he left the consulate alive, shows that we haven’t been told the full truth, and we must insist on getting that,” Rasmussen said in Copenhagen after talks with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.
Rutte said Khashoggi’s killing was “shocking.” He and Rasmussen said they would back an investigation into his death by the United Nations and other Western powers.
Saudi Arabia’s explanation distanced the royal family from a case that has sparked global outrage and roiled the kingdom’s ties with the US and Western allies.
In Washington, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker of Tennessee noted that the Senate has demanded an investigation by the US government. He said in a statement that the Saudis “can undergo their own investigation, but the US administration must make its own independent, credible determination of responsibility for Khashoggi’s murder.”
Merkel, who grew up under communism in what was then East Germany, mentioned Khashoggi’s killing after evoking the legacy of the East German pro-democracy uprising that toppled the Berlin Wall in 1989.
“Yet globally, these freedoms are anything but self-evident,” she said in a speech.
Threat of Violence
With the European Union under attack from populists, Merkel told her party’s delegates in the state of Thuringia that the CDU’s task is to stand up to nationalists forces that want to break up or weaken the European Union, including in next year’s European Parliament elections.
“We see how others are trying to breach taboos, say things openly, throw everything into question,” she said. “We must never allow that. Thoughts turn to words, words turn into action and that leads to violence.”