This post has been updated to correct a reference to the Colorado Attorney General's trip to Saudi Arabia.
Updated March 22: The investigation now is focused on a white supremacist named Evan Spencer Ebel, who was shot and killed by police in Texas after a high-speed chase. Ebel's car matched the description of a car a witness saw idling outside Clements' home around the time of the shooting.
Refusal to send a convicted sex offender to his native Saudi Arabia to serve out his prison term is among the motives Colorado detectives are investigating in Tuesday's murder of the state's prison director Tom Clements.
The Denver Fox affiliate reported that the Saudi angle "is the primary working theory in the murder" and that others involved in the case, from the state prosecutor to the U.S. attorney, are under police protection.
Clements was killed after answering a knock in his home's front door. A witness reported seeing a vacant car with its engine running
"We're aware of that information. We're sensitive to the fact that there could be any number of people may have had a motive for wanting to target him for a crime such as this," Lt. Jeff Kramer of the El Paso County Sheriff's Office told reporters.
One week earlier, Clements denied a Saudi request to have Colorado inmate Homaidan Al-Turki returned to Saudi Arabia to serve out his prison sentence from a 2006 conviction for sexual assaulting a housekeeper, who was described as a "virtual slave." Al-Turki has refused to undergo sex offender treatment, saying it would violate his Islamic faith.
"Your successful participation in the Sex Offender Treatment and Monitoring Program would reflect positive progression and, although there can be no guarantees of future determinations, could result in your eventual parole or transfer to a Saudi Arabian prison," Clements wrote March 11 in explaining why he denied al-Turki's request.
The decision reportedly angered Saudi officials.
On Tuesday, the Investigative Project on Terrorism reported on a January agreement between the Department of Homeland Security and Saudi Arabia to allow Saudi travelers to apply for the Global Entry program, which allows pre-vetted passengers to avoid long Customs and Border Protection lines at U.S. airports. Critics, including former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham of Florida, said the program appeared to be "a continuation" of an American policy of deference toward Saudi Arabia despite the role Saudi nationals played in the 9/11 attacks.
As Daniel Pipes has chronicled, the Saudis have long taken an interest in al-Turki's case, paying for his bond after his 2005 arrest and trying to intervene in the case. The State Department sent Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to Saudi Arabia to discuss al-Turki's conviction with members of the royal family, including King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan.
Clements' murder may turn out to be unrelated. Other reports indicate investigators say the killing did not look like a professional hit. They are looking into his telephone records and pursuing other theories.
But the dispatching of a state attorney general to quell Saudi anger is telling about U.S-Saudi relations. Saudi Arabia is in no position to cast aspersions on the American justice system. Two days after Clements decided not to repatriate al-Turki, Saudi Arabia executed seven men convicted of robbery and related crimes.
This drew strong condemnation from United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
"Under international safeguards adopted by the United Nations Economic and Social Council, and reaffirmed by the General Assembly, capital punishment may be imposed only for 'the most serious crimes' and only after the most rigorous judicial process," Pillay said in a news release. "As I pointed out to the Government of Saudi Arabia before the men were executed, neither of those fundamental criteria appear to have been fulfilled in these cases."