Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has claimed the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is being exploited for political gain.
Rabat – In an interview published Sunday in Asharq Al-Awsat, bin Salman said Saudi Arabia was committed to achieving justice “without getting distracted by positions taken by some for their own domestic considerations.”
Bin Salman’s comments were understood as a veilied reference to Turkey, where the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi took place last October. While countries such as the United States President Donald Trump has refused to hold the Crown Prince responsible, Turkey has openly accused Bin Salman of the murder.
Bin Salman has denied any involvement in the killing.
Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the Saudi regime, visited the Saudi Consulate on October 2 of 2018 to procure documents for his upcoming marriage. Inside the consulate the journalist was confronted by a team of Saudi operatives. He was then strangled, dismembered with a bone saw, and removed from the building.
The location of Khashoggi’s body remains unknown.
After weeks of shifting explanations, from denying Khashoggi’s death, to claiming it was an accident, then blaming it on a “rogue operation,” the Saudi government finally admitted in late October that the murder was premeditated.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the killing was “obviously a political crime.”
Investigations into the killing
In 2017, a year before the murder, Khashoggi began writing an op-ed column for the Washington Post. The column was critical of the Saudi regime’s foreign policy and the diminishing press freedom in the country.
That same fall, MBS voiced concerns to his aides that Khashoggi was becoming too influential. According to an intelligence report, bin Salman said he would “use a bullet” on the dissident journalist if he refused to end his criticism and return to Saudi Arabia.
In the Asharq al-Awsat interview, bin Salman called the killing a “very painful crime,” and said “any party exploiting the case politically should stop doing so, and present evidence to the [Saudi] court.”
A month after the killing, audio tapes of the gruesome murder were leaked to the press by the Turkish government. Security footage also surfaced, showing Khashoggi entering the consolate. The tapes later show one of the operatives, dressed in Khashoggi’s clothing, leaving the building through the back entrance.
US President Donald Trump has refused to place any blame on bin Salman for the murder. Instead, he has focused on strengthening diplomatic ties with his oil-rich ally.
Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior advisor, is also unwilling to implicate Bin Salman in Khashoggi’s killing. In an interview with Axios on June 3, Kushner refused to divulge any information from conversations he has had with the Crown Prince.
Instead he referred to an investigation by the State Department and said “when they have the facts from the investigation then it will be up to the President to make a determination on what he wants to do.”
Last November, the Central Intelligence Agency released an assessment of the killing and found it had been ordered by the Crown Prince.
In February, UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard discussed her ongoing investigation into the case. Callamard said her evidence showed “Khashoggi was the victim of a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the state of Saudi Arabia.”
Callamard’s full report on Khashoggi’s killing is expected to be published this week.