Riyadh claims to have no knowledge of Khashoggi's body despite questioning all suspects

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published 12.02.2019 00:21

It's been more than four months since Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident Saudi journalist, was killed in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul. Despite conducting its own investigation and detaining all the suspects, Riyadh continues to claim that it has no knowledge of Khashoggi's body. Speaking about the murder in an interview with CBS News on Sunday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir acknowledged that it was carried out by Saudi officials "acting outside their scope of authority." He was referring to the 11 people who have been charged with the crime. However, when asked about Khashoggi's body, he said, "We don't know."

Following this exchange, Jubeir was asked why those in custody couldn't tell where the body was and he responded by saying that they were still investigating.

"We now have a number of possibilities and we're asking the culprits what they did with the body, and I think this investigation is ongoing, and I would expect that eventually, we will find the truth," he said.

Khashoggi was killed and dismembered by a group of Saudi operatives in the country's consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018. Initially denying and later downplaying the incident as an accidental killing in a fistfight, almost three weeks after the disappearance Riyadh finally admitted that Khashoggi was murdered in a premeditated action but denied any involvement of the royal family.

The incident was blamed on lower-level officials. A Saudi public prosecutor's spokesman said that 21 Saudis had been taken into custody over the case, 11 of whom had been indicted and referred to trial. The prosecutor has said that the authorities were seeking the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects. Despite more than 100 days passing since Khashoggi's assassination, the whereabouts of his body remains unknown.

Jubeir said that the public prosecutor responsible for the case had sought evidence from Turkey but has received no response. His claim, however, undermined the efforts of the country to reveal the case.

Ankara has used every means available to bring those responsible to justice, maintaining international pressure. Turkish officials previously said they shared evidence with Saudi Arabia and other nations about Khashoggi's killing and repeatedly called for the suspects to be extradited to Turkey, where the crime was committed.

Conducting an investigation in Turkey last week, Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur for extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, acknowledged in a report that "Turkey's efforts to apply prompt, effective and thorough, independent and impartial, and transparent investigations - in line with international law - have been seriously curtailed and undermined by Saudi Arabia." Callamard also said evidence gathered during her time in Turkey showed that Khashoggi "was the victim of a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the State of Saudi Arabia."

During their visit to Turkey, Callamard and her team met Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül, Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor İrfan Fidan and other government officials involved in the Khashoggi murder investigation.

"The crown prince, we know, did not order this. This was not a government-sanctioned operation," Jubeir further said. The killing of Khashoggi has brought near unprecedented international scrutiny on Saudi Arabia and its powerful crown prince. The U.S. Senate even offered the Magnitsky Act, which targets people responsible for human rights violations or corruption. However, following the 120-day period provided by the act, which ended Saturday, Trump refused to provide a report to Congress determining who killed Khashoggi. Trump's idle position has angered lawmakers, who have tried to establish a connection between the murder and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), whom the CIA assessed with high-confidence that he "personally targeted" Khashoggi and "probably ordered his death."

Meanwhile, a former top aide to whom MBS told he would use "a bullet" on Khashoggi has been appointed the kingdom's ambassador to the United Arab Emirates. The report naming Turki Aldakhil, former general manager of Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television, was published by The New York Times on Thursday.

It alleged U.S. intelligence agencies intercepted a 2017 conversation between Aldakhil and Mohammed bin Salman in which the crown prince threatened to kill Khashoggi if he did not stop criticizing the Saudi government and return to the kingdom. Aldakhil denied the claim in a statement to The Times. On Sunday, Saudi King Salman swore in Aldakhil along with other new ambassadors, according to the state-run SPA news agency.

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