Jamal Khashoggi: Wife of murdered journalist wins US political asylum

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Hanan Elatr has sought political asylum in the US since she came to the country more than three years ago.

The wife of Jamal Khashoggi, the journalist who was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, has been granted political asylum in the US.

Mr Khashoggi died in October 2018, and US intelligence has said it believes Saudi Arabia was behind the killing.

Hanan Elatr, Mr Khashoggi’s wife, feared for her safety and came to the US in August 2020 to apply for asylum.

The BBC reviewed documents showing she was granted indefinite asylum status on 28 November.

“We did win,” Ms Elatr told the BBC, emotion catching in her throat. “Yes, they took Jamal’s life and they destroyed my life, but we did win.”

It has been more than three years since Ms Elatr first applied for political asylum in the US. She has maintained that her life would be in danger if she returned to Egypt, where she is from, or the United Arab Emirates – her home of more than 25 years.

The former Emirates flight attendant came to the US and lived afraid for her safety in Maryland for many months, abandoning her job and life, her attorney Randa Fahmy said in an interview.

Eventually she was able to obtain a work permit in October 2021 to begin her new life in the US. Ms Elatr now has a job and apartment – though she struggles to make ends meet.

Jamal Khashoggi

“It’s been a lengthy process,” Ms Fahmy said.

Despite the time it took, Ms Elatr expressed gratitude to President Joe Biden and his administration for “opening the door for me”. She said she is “relieved from feeling scared”.

Ms Elatr finally interviewed with US immigration services in March in a process that her attorney described as “pretty traumatic” for the level of detail and repetition that it required.

They expected to receive a response in 60 to 90 days, but Ms Fahmy believes that the application process was held up by ongoing negotiations between the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel.

The two women enlisted the help of various members of Congress, but called congressman Don Beyer and Senator Tim Kaine their “champions on Capitol Hill”.

Both lawmakers told the BBC that they were happy to help Ms Elatr and were relieved to hear the news. Mr Beyer said it was “the clearest case for political asylum imaginable”.

“After all that she and her family have been through, it is good to see them granted this recognition and the measure of security that will come with it,” Mr Beyer said in a statement. “I will continue to support Mrs Khashoggi as she seeks accountability for her husband’s murder, a terrible injustice which I will not forget.”

Ms Elatr and her attorney said that obtaining political asylum will serve as a springboard “to take our case further to bring justice for Jamal”.

CCTV footage shows missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

They are seeking compensation from Saudi Arabia for Mr Khashoggi’s death and are working to obtain the journalist’s electronic devices from the Turkish government.

They also intend to pursue legal action against Israeli spyware firm NSO Group, which has faced widespread allegations that its Pegasus software has been sold to and used by authoritarian governments across the world.

The BBC has reached out to NSO Group for comment, but it has previously denied wrongdoing.

“We’re determined to get justice for Jamal and peace and justice for Hanan,” Ms Fahmy said.

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