"I can't breathe" were the final words uttered by dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 by a Saudi hit squad, said a source who read the translated transcript of an audio recording of the murder. "It was clear that the killing on Oct. 2 was no botched rendition attempt, but the execution of a premeditated plan to murder the journalist," the source, who wished to remain anonymous, told the U.S.-based CNN media outlet on Monday. Describing the recordings, the source stated that after Khashoggi refused the offer of Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, one of the 15-people team sent to Istanbul to confront Khashoggi, to return to the country, numerous people set upon him.
As Khashoggi struggled, he repeatedly said, "I can't breathe."
Following sawing noises, Mutreb made a series of phone calls and briefed the voice on the end of the line about the progress.
The source underlined, "The calls do not describe a terrible situation gone awry, or explain an unexpected set of circumstances. Instead, the caller appears simply to be describing to someone of the situation going entirely according to plan."
Khashoggi was killed in Saudi Arabia's Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 by a team of 15 people consisting of Saudi officials who arrived in Turkey for his murder and a cover-up operation, including dismembering Khashoggi's body.
After weeks of denying any involvement in the crime, Riyadh admitted that Khashoggi had been killed inside the consulate when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed. Yet, Riyadh has been denying that the royal family and crown prince had any prior knowledge. All of the identified individuals have since left Turkey and some of them were later arrested by Saudi authorities in the face of mounting international scrutiny over the killing.
RIYADH REJECTS EXTRADITION
OF CULPRITSSaudi Arabia's foreign minister also rejected on Sunday Turkey's demands to extradite suspects connected to the murder of the journalist, which has been emphasized by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for some time now.
"We do not extradite our citizens," Adel al-Jubeir said at the end of the Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) annual summit held in Riyadh yesterday. He added that "the Turkish authorities have not been as forthcoming as we believe they should have been."
"The Saudi minister's decision to not to extradite the suspects in the Khashoggi murder case is disappointing," the Presidency's Communications Director Fahrettin Altun said yesterday. "It will be in best interest of the international community to seek justice for Khashoggi under international law," Altun added.
Gulf countries also declared their support for Saudi Arabia on the killing in the statement issued at the end of the summit. The statement noted that that Gulf countries will stand by the actions of Riyadh to bring the culprits to justice in line with the rule of law.
Erdoğan has repeatedly been calling on Riyadh to hand over suspects in the killing of the journalist, saying that a trial in Saudi Arabia will not satisfy the international community and the crime was committed on Turkish soil.
Istanbul's chief prosecutor last week filed warrants for the arrest of Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), and Gen. Ahmed al-Asiri, who served as deputy head of foreign intelligence.
Turkish Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül yesterday called for the truth in the killing to be unveiled without a cover-up and reiterated Turkey's extradition demands.
"Saudi authorities should be constructive, yet we have not witnessed such actions. Saudi Arabia kept its silence on the issue. If you want to clear this issue, you should cooperate with Turkey," Gül said. Pointing out that Turkey has been meticulously conducting the investigation he underscored that the killing has become an issue of concern for the international community.
Meanwhile, Khashoggi's fiancee Hatice Cengiz urged the international community on Monday to put those who carried out the killing on fair trial, including those who ordered the hit so they get the punishment they deserve. Expressing her astonishment, Cengiz said that she never imagined such a crime could happen in a consulate.
"On behalf of Jamal's relatives and loved ones, and I say this as one of them, we need to know the whereabouts of his body. This is a basic human right," she added.
US SENATE CONVINCED
OF MBS'S ROLE IN KILLING
Khashoggi's murder prompted unprecedented international outcry and forced many countries to reassess their ties with Riyadh. Western countries including the United States, France and Canada have placed sanctions on nearly 20 Saudi nationals, while the murder has damaged Riyadh's international reputation as the case has turned the spotlight on the crown prince.
"The bottom line is that there is no way that 17 people close to him got a charter plane, flew to a third country, went into a consulate, killed and chopped up a man and flew back, and MBS didn't know about it, much less order it," Republican Sen. Marco Rubio told CNN on Sunday. Rubio also stressed that there is no need for direct evidence that he ordered the code red on this thing, in a rebuke to President Donald Trump and his administration's efforts to whitewash MBS due to lack of "direct evidence."
Previously, the CIA assessed with high-confidence that the crown prince "personally targeted" Khashoggi and "probably ordered his death" despite Riyadh's denials. But the White House has maintained that taking more aggressive action against Saudi Arabia might unnecessarily harm U.S. strategic interests, as well as arms deals worth more than $100 billion.
In the face of mounting pressures from the Senate, the Trump administration allowed CIA Director Gina Haspel to brief a group of senators on the details of the killing last week.
"There is no doubt by any senator who received this briefing that MBS was complicit in the murder of Khashoggi," Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, a well-known Trump ally told Fox television on Sunday. He highlighted that two analysts walked the senators through the crown prince's focus on Khashoggi for about two years and the person in charge of executing the operation was MBS's right-hand man. Slamming the U.S. administration's stance on the issue, Graham said that they do not need to be dependent on "a murderous regime" to protect the U.S. from Iran, but on the contrary, supporting Riyadh will only hurt Washington's ability to govern the region. Stressing that the Senate will label MBS as complicit, Graham added that the Senate will have a vote saying that MBS was complicit in the murder and she will not support any more arms sales to Saudi Arabia.