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US lawmakers seek to force intelligence release on Khashoggi death

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US lawmakers vowed on Tuesday to force the release of an intelligence report on the killing of Saudi dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi, accusing President Donald Trump of blocking it to protect the kingdom.

[WASHINGTON] US lawmakers vowed on Tuesday to force the release of an intelligence report on the killing of Saudi dissident writer Jamal Khashoggi, accusing President Donald Trump of blocking it to protect the kingdom.

Congress last year ordered the director of national intelligence to name who ordered the October 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident who had written critically of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in The Washington Post.

But the intelligence chief said the information should remain classified so as not to hurt national security.

"The administration has not even attempted to make the case to us that this would cause that kind of harm," said Representative Tom Malinowski, who had led the push for the report.

"What they are really afraid of, I think, is extremely plain - they are afraid of embarrassing somebody who has a close personal relationship with President Trump and the Trump administration," Mr Malinowski told reporters.

He was joined by Khashoggi's fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, who said a declassified report could answer "critical questions" such as who ordered his killing and where his remains were disposed of.

"The first step to find justice for Jamal is to know the truth," she said.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden said he will invoke a section of a 1976 law that allows the intelligence committee, on which he serves, to declassify a report.

If the committee votes to release it, Mr Trump would have five days to present objections in writing, after which the full Senate - controlled by his Republican Party - could vote to defy him.

"This has been a total and complete cover-up," Wyden said.

"If our country and our friends and our partners do nothing in the face of this barbaric act, it sends a message around the world that it is open season on journalists," he said.

Khashoggi was lured in October 2018 into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where, according to Turkish and US officials, he was strangled to death and his body cut apart with a bone saw.

The Trump administration has imposed visa restrictions on Saudis accused of involvement but has said the murder would not jeopardise relations, with the president hailing the kingdom for its purchases of US weapons and shared hostility to Iran.

AFP