Gruesome details about the case of the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi have surfaced once again through confessions at the trial of Saudi suspects who were members of the state's security apparatus. Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, who was supposed to be the leader of the 15-man Saudi hit squad that killed Khashoggi, was in fact not number one but number two and the head of the negotiation group, according to reports.
The number one was Gen. Mansour Abu Hussein, who came to Istanbul with the Saudi team. Hussein, on the order of the former deputy head of the Saudi intelligence services, Ahmet al-Asiri, ordered the formation of three different groups for the assassination – intelligence, negotiation and logistics. Hussein headed all three groups, one report said.
"When Jamal Khashoggi saw a towel, a needle and drugs on the table, he asked 'What will you do with these? Will you numb me? I replied to him, 'Yes, we will numb you.'"
"After Jamal died, I thought of burying his body in the garden of the [Saudi Consulate] first. But then I ordered the team to dismember his body, worrying that it would come out," Saudi intelligence officer and former diplomat Mutreb, who played a pivotal role in the assassination of Khashoggi, said.
According to Mutreb's statement, the Saudi hit squad asked the Saudi consul general in Istanbul to allocate a place for the meeting with Khashoggi.
During the meeting, Khashoggi was asked to return to Saudi Arabia and talk with his son Salah to tell him that he would be in Saudi Arabia soon. However, he refused.
Mutreb claimed that Khashoggi had been killed with a drug.
"If Jamal refuses to come to Riyadh voluntarily, I find it difficult to take him out by force. So I decided to kill him," he added. "I wore his clothes to make Jamal look like he came out of the consulate, I put on his glasses. I went to Sultanahmet Square and wore my own clothes in a mosque's toilet. I threw Jamal's clothes and glasses in the trash."
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 fashion but denied any involvement of the royal family.
The incident was blamed on lower-level officials, including five that are now facing the death penalty over their involvement. A Saudi public prosecutor said in late March that they would seek the death penalty for five suspects among the 21 involved in the case. Ankara has said the statement is not satisfactory and demanded genuine cooperation from Riyadh.
Khashoggi's body has not been recovered and the kingdom has remained silent on its whereabouts. The U.N. human rights expert who conducted an independent probe into the murder of Khashoggi, Agnes Callamard, said in a report last month that the state of Saudi Arabia was responsible for the murder. The report also found "credible evidence" that linked Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the killing of Khashoggi. The rapporteur noted she had received no cooperation from Riyadh and minimal help from the U.S.