Authorities in Saudi Arabia say they will seek the death penalty for five people who have been accused of carrying out the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.
The latest Saudi account on Thursday was almost immediately dismissed as inadequate by Turkish officials, while the United States moved to sanction 17 Saudis it said were involved in the October 2 killing.
Speaking to reporters in Riyadh, Shaalan al-Shaalan, Saudi Arabia’s deputy public prosecutor, said “the incident” began on September 29 when a “former” deputy chief of intelligence ordered the “leader of the mission” to “bring back the victim by means of persuasion, and if persuasion fails, to do so by force” Aljazeera reported.
While the prosecutor’s office did not give names, General Ahmad al-Assiri, who was fired as deputy head of intelligence in the wake of the killing, has been implicated in the killing.
The mission leader – also not named – then put together a 15-member team to “return” the journalist from Turkey.
The team included a forensics expert “for the purpose of removing evidence from the scene” and a local collaborator tasked with securing a safe house “in case force had to be used to return the victim”.
Al-Shalaan said that on the morning of October 2, the leader of the negotiating team saw that he would not be able to force Khashoggi to return, “so he decided to kill him in the moment.”
The 59-year-old then died from a lethal injection – the official cause of death is listed as a drug overdose – and his body was dismembered and taken out of the building, he said.
The body parts were “delivered” to the local collaborator and another man put on Khashoggi’s clothes and posed as the journalist exiting the consulate.
According to Saudi investigators, the cameras inside the consulate were disabled during the drugging and dismemberment of Khashoggi.
Al-Shaalan said 21 people were now in custody, with 11 indicted and referred to trial, adding that Saud al-Qahtani, a former adviser to the royal court, had been banned from travelling and remained under investigation.
The prosecution is seeking the death penalty for five officials who gave the orders and oversaw the execution of the murder.
Al-Shaalan said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, was not implicated in the gruesome murder that has triggered global outrage. Later on Thursday, Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, reiterated that the crown prince had “absolutely” nothing to do with Khashoggi’s death.
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