Saudi Arabia denied on Saturday that two Saudi sisters found dead taped together on the banks of the Hudson River late last month were linked to an asylum claim they had made in the U.S.
The bodies of Rotana Farea, 22, and her sister Tala, 16, were discovered some 250 miles from the family home in Virginia. They were dressed in black, with their feet and waists taped together.
The sisters’ mother told local media that the Saudi embassy in Washington had ordered the family to leave the U.S. over the phone, Al Jazeera reported. The pair are thought to have recently applied for political asylum in the country.
But embassy spokesperson Fatimah Baeshen denied the allegation. “Reports that we ordered anyone related to the Saudi sisters, Tala and Rotana Farea, God rest their souls, (who recently died tragically in NY), to leave the US for seeking asylum; are absolutely false. Details are still under investigation and will be shared in due course,” she wrote on Twitter.
Reports that we ordered anyone related to the Saudi sisters, Tala and Rotana Farea, God rest their souls, (who recently died tragically in NY), to leave the US for seeking asylum; are absolutely false. Details are still under investigation and will be shared in due course.
— Fatimah S Baeshen (@FatimahSBaeshen) November 2, 2018
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The sisters had been living in a Fairfax County shelter after departing the family home in late 2017. But the pair left for New York in August, and went on to max out a credit card while staying at upmarket hotels, Al Jazeera stated.
“”There is nothing pointing to a crime as of yet,” said an NYPD spokesperson. “It is still very much a live investigation.”
The NYPD said the sisters were alive when they fell into the water. Suicide is among the explanations under consideration.
The recent murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi has put a great deal of attention on the strange deaths of the sisters. Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
Explanations from Saudi Arabia ranged from an initial denial of his death altogether, to a murder carried out by rogue agents. Details of the murder are still emerging, but Turkish officials have claimed Khashoggi was strangled shortly after entering the consulate, before he was dismembered and his body somehow disposed of.
An advisor to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdo?an even recently suggested the journalist’s body was dissolved in acid.
The journalist, who was living in the U.S., had written articles criticizing Saudi Arabia’s ruling family. He was entering the consulate to collect documents that would allow him to marry his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.