The widow of Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post columnist killed by Saudi operatives at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in 2018, was granted political asylum late last month, more than three years after she fled to the United States.
“I feel great and that I’ve taken the right decision to come to this country,” his widow, Hanan Elatr Khashoggi, said in an interview. “I can feel more safe now that I’m not afraid to be handed over to any dictator in the Middle East.”
Ms. Khashoggi, who was born in Egypt and married Mr. Khashoggi in 2018, fled from the United Arab Emirates to the United States in July 2020.
Her successful petition for asylum is one of the few recent reminders of the fallout from the killing, which drew international outrage and strained ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia but never led to a permanent rupture. Those close to Mr. Khashoggi have continued to push for penalties on those they believe played a role, even as relations between the kingdom and the United States have started to rebound.
Ms. Khashoggi, whose successful petition was reported earlier by The Post, applied for political asylum in August 2020, saying she feared for her safety outside the United States. Ms. Khashoggi said she had been on the receiving end of threats and intimidation, was under surveillance and had been put under house arrest twice in the United Arab Emirates because she was close to Mr. Khashoggi.
The assassination of Mr. Khashoggi, a legal permanent resident of Virginia who was critical of the Saudi government in his columns, was approved by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto Saudi ruler, according to an intelligence report released by the Biden administration in 2021.
The administration took no direct action against Prince Mohammed after releasing the report, instead announcing travel and financial sanctions on other Saudis involved in the killing and on members of the elite unit of the Royal Guard that protects the crown prince. The administration concluded it could not risk a full rupture of its relationship with the kingdom. Mr. Biden, who as a candidate vowed to make Saudi Arabia a “pariah” for ordering the killing, said he brought up the murder when he met with Prince Mohammed as president.
“Nobody feels there was justice for Jamal in anything that was done over the past five years,” said Randa Fahmy, Ms. Khashoggi’s lawyer. She added that her client’s petition for asylum had been delayed for months without explanation, even with several lawmakers advocating on her behalf.
“Hanan Khashoggi has the clearest case for political asylum imaginable, and I am happy that I could help her get this vital protection,” said Representative Donald S. Beyer Jr., Democrat of Virginia, one of the lawmakers who supported her claim, in a statement. “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.”
Ms. Khashoggi filed suit in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., against NSO Group, the Israeli maker of a spyware program called Pegasus that she said had been installed onto her phone before she married Mr. Khashoggi. NSO Group has denied that its tools were involved in Mr. Khashoggi’s murder. The lawsuit was dismissed in October, but Ms. Fahmy said Ms. Khashoggi was appealing.
Ms. Khashoggi said she was also focused on retrieving Mr. Khashoggi’s personal effects from Turkey and receiving financial compensation from Saudi Arabia. While the kingdom has paid Mr. Khashoggi’s four adult children tens of thousands of dollars and millions in real estate in compensation, Ms. Khashoggi said she had not received any compensation.
“They owe that to Ms. Khashoggi,” Ms. Fahmy said.
Ms. Fahmy and Ms. Khashoggi are also trying to seek refuge in the United States for her family members who remain in the Middle East and have also faced threats.