BUENOS AIRES, Argentina — Canada is imposing sanctions on 17 Saudi Arabian nationals linked to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced the move at a G20 summit in Buenos Aires, adding that the decision doesn't mean that the federal government believes the issue is now closed.
The sanctions freeze any assets the targets might have in Canada and says they cannot enter the country. The United States has already done something similar.
Freeland says the sanctions are designed to target individuals who are, in the opinion of the government, responsible for or complicit in the writer's "truly vile murder" in October.
Khashoggi was a critic of the Saudi monarchy and a contributor to the Washington Post. Though he was living in exile in the United States, he went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to get paperwork for his impending marriage and never came out.
The Saudi government's story about what happened has changed repeatedly, from questioning whether Khashoggi actually disappeared to admitting that he was killed by Saudi agents in what a prosecutor has called a bungled rogue operation to bring him back to Saudi Arabia.
American intelligence agencies have reportedly come to the conclusion that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had a hand in the affair.
The head of Canada's spy agency was dispatched to Turkey to gather information and listen to a recording Turkish authorities have of Khashoggi's killing. CSIS director David Vigneault briefed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as well as other top officials upon his return.
Freeland stopped short of linking the crown prince to crime. She said the government wants a credible, transparent investigation to identify all those who were involved in something "so serious and so odious" as Khashoggi's death.
"It's very important to act and to speak only on the basis of real certainty. These are not steps that we take lightly, they are not accusations that we can make lightly. But, again, I do want to emphasize this case is not closed as far as Canada is concerned," she said.
In the meantime, Canada is reviewing all arms sales to the Middle East kingdom and won't issue any new export permits until the review is complete. Khashoggi's killing — which brought international condemnation of Riyadh — also renewed public outrage in Canada over Ottawa's controversial $15-billion deal to sell light armoured vehicles to the kingdom.
These are not steps that we take lightly, they are not accusations that we can make lightly.Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland
The Liberals have faced calls to cancel the armoured-vehicles contract, but Trudeau has said the penalty for doing so would be "in the billions of dollars."
Bin Salman will be among the world leaders gathering for the G20 and few want to be seen shaking hands with the Saudi crown prince.
When asked how Canada would handle interactions with bin Salman, Freeland said, "We obviously are aware of the membership of the G20 and who will be here."
"Some of the close allies with whom we have been co-ordinating our work following the murder of Jamal Khashoggi are here as well," she said. "This will be an opportunity to continue that work and continue it face-to-face."
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