MORE COVERUPS? Saudi’s Seek Death Penalty in Khashoggi Murder
Saudi prosecutors said Thursday they would seek the death penalty for five people allegedly involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
A total of 11 people were charged, the Saudi Public Prosecutor’s office said, adding that the five people facing capital punishment were directly involved in “ordering and executing the crime.”
The prosecution also shared details of the journalist’s murder, saying Khashoggi was killed on October 2 following “a fight and a quarrel” at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Prosecutors say Khashoggi was tied up and injected with an overdose of a sedative that killed him, then his body was dismembered and removed from the consulate by five people and given to a local collaborator.
Khashoggi was killed by a 15-member Saudi “hit squad” sent from Riyahh, according to Turkish officials. Ankara has insisted the orders for Khashoggi’s killing came from the highest levels of the Saudi government, but not Salman himself.
The so-called “hit squad” strangled and dismembered Khashoggi at the consulate, Turkish officials have said. His body may have been chemically dissolved as it has not yet been discovered, according to multiple media reports.
An audio recording of Khashoggi’s killing had been shared with Saudi Arabia and other countries, including the U.S., Britain, France, Germany and Canada, according to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The audio recording of the killing was so “atrocious” a Saudi intelligence official who heard it speculated that “only someone who took heroin” could have done it, Erdogan said.
“The recording is truly atrocious. In fact, when the Saudi intelligence officer listened to the recording he was so shocked that he said ‘this one probably took heroin. Only someone who took heroin would do it,” Erdogan was quoted as saying in the pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak.
The Saudi Public Prosecutor’s office added that former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.
They were divided into three groups, it said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.
It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecution said.
“The head of the negotiation team concluded that it would not be possible to transfer the victim by force to the safe location in case the negotiations with him to return failed. The head of the negotiation team decided to murder the victim if the negotiations failed. The investigation concluded that the incident resulted in murder,” the prosecutor said.
U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said he didn’t think tape implicated Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Al Saud.
“That is not the conclusion that the people who have heard it have come to,” Bolton said in Singapore on Tuesday.
The Trump administration on Thursday imposed sanctions targeting 17 Saudi Arabian officials — but not the powerful crown prince, more than a month after the Saudi critic went missing.
The Treasury Department designated the officials for sanctions over what it called “serious human rights abuse,” freezing any U.S. assets and barring American citizens from engaging in business with them. The announcement named royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani and said he led the team that flew into Istanbul just hours before Khashoggi entered the consulate there for paperwork relating to his planned marriage. Al-Qahtani was fired from his post in late October.
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, who decided not to attend the glitzy “Davos in the Desert” business and investment conference in Riyadh amid outrage over Khashoggi’s death, said al-Qahtani and the other 16 officials were directly involved in the “abhorrent killing” and must face consequences for it. He also called on the Saudi government to “end any targeting of political dissidents or journalists.”
“The United States continues to diligently work to ascertain all of the facts and will hold accountable each of those we find responsible in order to achieve justice for Khashoggi’s fiancée, children, and the family he leaves behind,” Mnuchin said.
Saudi Foreign Minister al-Jubeir reiterated to reporters on Thursday that bin Salman had no involvement in the killing of the journalist.
“The Crown Prince has nothing to do with this issue,” al-Jubeir said.
“In fact, the security adviser in the US said this. This was a rogue operation,” he added.
“This was individuals exceeding their authority and going beyond their mandate.
“These individuals made a tremendous mistake and for this mistake they will pay a price and their case is in the court system.”
Al-Jubeir went on to say that criticisms on Saudi Arabia “are baseless and illogical.”
“Regarding the Turkish and Qatari media, I believe there was a vicious campaign directed at (The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) and this is unfortunate,” he added.
Human rights groups, however, expressed outrage that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is close to presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner, was left out of the sanctions.
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