According to media reports, the CIA assumes that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has ordered the assassination of the government-critical journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The “Washington Post” reported on Friday (local time) that the US secret service was relying, among other things, on a telephone conversation between Khashoggi and the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the USA, a brother of the Crown Prince. According to the New York Times, however, the CIA has no clear evidence for its thesis.
According to the Washington Post, after evaluating several sources, the CIA came to the conclusion that 15 Saudi Arabian agents had flown to Istanbul in a government plane and killed Kashoggi there in their country’s consulate.
The Saudi ambassador to the USA, Crown Prince Mohammed’s brother bin Salman, had previously assured Khashoggi that there was no danger if he obtained papers for his wedding in the Istanbul consulate.
Salman rejected the Washington Post’s report on his phone call to Khashoggi. “This is a serious accusation that should not be left to anonymous sources,” he wrote on Twitter, adding a statement to his message. An embassy spokesman assured that Khalid bin Salman “never had any telephone conversation” with Khashoggi.
According to the Washington Post, the ambassador made the call at the request of the Crown Prince. It is unclear, however, whether the diplomat was informed about the murder plans. At the request of the news agency AFP, the CIA did not want to comment on the Washington Post’s report.
The New York Times wrote that the CIA’s allegations against Prince Mohammed were also based on phone calls from the task force that killed Khashoggi with high-ranking Crown Prince employees. The recordings show that Prince Mohammed Khashoggi wanted to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia. But in it, he did not express the demand to kill the government critic.
Khashoggi, who last worked as a columnist for the Washington Post, disappeared on October 2 after entering Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul. After weeks of denials, Saudi Arabia, under international pressure, finally admitted that Khashoggi died in the consulate, but initially presented it as the result of a dispute. Only later did Riyadh indirectly admit that Khashoggi was “deliberately” killed.
According to the Washington Post, the CIA assessment states that Crown Prince Mohammed is the “de facto ruler” in Saudi Arabia. It is therefore a generally accepted assessment of the Khashoggi murder that “there was no way this could have happened without his knowledge or involvement,” the newspaper quoted a US representative. Prince Mohammed was a “good technocrat”, but at the same time an unpredictable ruler.
On Thursday, the public prosecutor’s office in Riyadh acquitted the Crown Prince of the suspicion that the assassination had been ordered, which had been raised many times internationally. A spokesman for the authority stated that the “head of the negotiating team”, who had flown to Istanbul for the mission, had given the order to kill Khashoggi.
According to the official statement, a 15-man task force was supposed to persuade Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia. However, the operation had degenerated into violence. The “Washington Post” columnist was stunned, killed and cut up in the consulate of the kingdom, explained the public prosecutor’s office.
According to information from Riyadh, 21 suspects are now in custody in the case, eleven of whom would be charged. The spokesman for the prosecuting authority said that the death penalty would be demanded against five people who “ordered and perpetrated the crime”.
The US government has imposed sanctions on 17 current and former government employees of the kingdom for Khashoggi’s violent death. US President Donald Trump, however, did not make any accusations against the de facto ruler of his important ally.
Following recent developments in the case, US Vice President Mike Pence has announced further consequences. “The US is determined to bring to justice all those responsible for this killing,” Pence said Saturday on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum (Apec) in Papua New Guinea.