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She was married to Khashoggi. She wants accountability as Biden lands in Saudi Arabia


President Biden is in Saudi Arabia today to meet with King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Biden is there for many reasons, among them to reassert U.S. influence in the Middle East. But the shadow of Saudi Arabia's killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has been hanging over this visit. An investigation by U.S. intelligence officials concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the operation that killed the journalist. Biden said this afternoon that he brought up that killing at the top of today's meeting and that he spoke to the crown prince about human rights and political reform. For another perspective on Biden's trip, we reached out to Hanan Elatr. She married Jamal Khashoggi in an Islamic ceremony in 2018 and is here now. Welcome.

HANAN ELATR: Thank you very much.

CHANG: We should first mention that your attorney, Randa Fahmy, is also present with us during this interview. And Hanan, I just want to begin by asking you, you know, President Biden, he once vowed to make Saudi Arabia a pariah state after Jamal Khashoggi was killed. Is he breaking that promise by visiting Saudi Arabia now, you think?

ELATR: I do really feel and I see President Biden handling this tragedy case in a very wise way. And I did respect when he promised to release intelligence report. I did not - I'll be honest with you. I didn't expect he would. Then he released it and he took a further step by banning and punish the member being suspect to be involved in this crime. About to have Saudi Arabia as a pariah country, I don't think this would make Jamal Khashoggi happy.

CHANG: Let me just make sure I understand. You do not believe that Jamal Khashoggi would have supported the U.S. treating Saudi Arabia as a pariah state?

ELATR: Exactly. He himself, he tried not to do it. He himself tried not to make a gap between himself and his country. But it happened, and it did lead to this crime. And I still believe the way President Biden behave, it's a wise political way, to go there and to put some pressure. That's why I did visit him in the White House before yesterday.

CHANG: Right. I understand that you did meet with senior Biden administration officials earlier this week. Did you actually speak to President Biden himself?

ELATR: No. We did meet with three official - high official. One of them, I remember, she was ambassador.

CHANG: And can you share a bit of what was discussed? Did you have specific requests?

ELATR: My special request and my aim to deliver my husband through wishes and legacy. There is a lot of noise in the world around my husband's tragedy. Some of it is to serve some political agenda, but that's why I say it's my duty. I have to raise my voice and to deliver the real legacy of my husband, which is immediate release of the political prisoner in Saudi Arabia, especially his close friend Essam Al-Zamil. And if I can save immediately any individual, human innocent individual, I will be very proud and Jamal will be happy, and especially if I can save any journalist's life, Jamal will be happy.

CHANG: I understand that you are planning to file a lawsuit against NSO Group, which makes spyware against the government of the United Arab Emirates and against the government of Saudi Arabia because you say that your devices were hacked and you want to learn more details about Jamal Khashoggi's murder. Can you tell me, ultimately, what are you seeking to obtain as a result of this lawsuit?

ELATR: I want all party involved in this crime to be accountable. And I follow the law here. I have to have solid evidence, and I move according to this.

CHANG: Well, let me ask you, ultimately, Hanan, what would justice look like to you for Khashoggi's death?

ELATR: Ultimately, I would like to see his real wishes come true, and they have to stop bending and silent anyone have another opinion. It has to be more tolerance. They have to learn the culture of tolerance. I'm talking about, unfortunately, Middle East countries, especially Saudi Arabia. And I just want to tell you, as a woman, nothing will compensate me my husband. Nothing in the Earth will compensate and at all heal, but at least if his wishes come out and it's my duty now, it will make me more comfortable.

CHANG: That is Hanan Elatr. Thank you very much for joining us.

ELATR: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.
Ashish Valentine joined NPR as its second-ever Reflect America fellow and is now a production assistant at All Things Considered. As well as producing the daily show and sometimes reporting stories himself, his job is to help the network's coverage better represent the perspectives of marginalized communities.
Christopher Intagliata is an editor at All Things Considered, where he writes news and edits interviews with politicians, musicians, restaurant owners, scientists and many of the other voices heard on the air.