Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said today that the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate was premeditated, reversing previous official statements that the killing was unintended.
The death of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, has sparked global outrage and mushroomed into a crisis for the world’s top oil exporter and strategic ally of the West.
Saudi officials initially denied having anything to do with Khashoggi’s disappearance after he entered the consulate on 2 October, before changing the official account to say an internal investigation suggested Khashoggi was accidentally killed in a botched operation to return him to the kingdom.
Turkey and Western allies of Riyadh have voiced deep scepticism about Saudi explanations of the killing, with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan dismissing Saudi efforts to blame rogue operatives and urging the kingdom to search “top to bottom” for those responsible.
Today, Saudi state TV quoted the Saudi public prosecutor as saying the killing was premeditated, and that prosecutors were interrogating suspects on the basis of information provided by a joint Saudi-Turkish task force.
“Information from the Turkish side affirms that the suspects in Khashoggi’s case premeditated their crime,” said the statement carried by state TV.
The disclosure came a day after US President Donald Trump, the kingdom’s staunchest Western ally, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying that Prince Mohammed, also known as MBS, bore ultimate responsibility for the operation that led to Khashoggi’s death.
Two informed sources told Reuters that CIA director Gina Haspel heard an audio recording of the killing during a fact-finding visit to Turkey this week, the first indication Ankara has shared its key investigative evidence.
A White House spokeswoman said Haspel would meet with Trump later yesterday to brief him on the case. Representatives of the CIA declined to comment.
“We have shared with those who sought additional information some of the information and findings that the prosecutor has allowed us to share,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters, without giving specific details.