The CIA has concluded that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince ordered the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The agency says Mohammed bin Salman ordered the assassination in Istanbul, the Washington Post reported on Friday, a finding that contradicts Saudi government assertions that he was not involved.
The Post said U.S. officials have expressed high confidence in the CIA assessment, which is the most definitive to date linking Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler to the killing and complicates President Donald Trump’s efforts to preserve U.S. ties with one of the closest American allies in the region.
It comes after the Saudi government said the killing of Khashoggi was carried out by ‘rogue elements’ acting beyond their brief.
Turkey has more evidence contradicting the Saudi version of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder – including a second audio recording, it was reported last night.
A second voice recording – said to be 15 minutes long – clearly reveals that the murder of the Washington Post columnist had been premeditated, the Hurriyet newspaper in Turkey said.
That would directly contradict the statement of the Saudi prosecutor, who has insisted that the original instructions issued to the ‘hit squad’ were either persuade Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia or – if he refused – kidnap him.
Saudi officials said Thursday that five members of the squad faced the death penalty on charges of killing Khashoggi, but exonerated the country’s powerful Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of involvement in the murder.
Khashoggi, 59, a mild critic of the crown prince, was killed and dismembered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 after making an appointment to collect papers for his upcoming wedding.
It comes as hundreds of people gathered to perform funeral prayer in absentia for Khashoggi at the Fatih Mosque in Istanbul.
Turkey has said the murder was carried out by a team of Saudis who travelled to the city for that purpose.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the order came from ‘the highest levels’ of the Riyadh government, but stopped just short of pointing the finger of blame directly at the crown prince.
Abdulkadir Selvi, pro-government columnist in the Hurriyet daily, said key findings in the Saudi prosecutor’s statement did not overlap with the evidence in the hands of Turkey including two voice recordings.
He claimed that the first seven-minute voice recording proves that Khashoggi was strangled but the second tape recorded shortly before the journalist stepped into the consulate clearly shows the murder was planned in advance.
The second tape proves the 15-member ‘killer team’ seated inside the consulate before Khashoggi’s arrival was discussing how to carry out the murder, he said.
Turkey has also evidence that the team made international calls after the murder, he added.
Saudi prosecutors on Thursday announced indictments against 11 people and said a total of 21 individuals were in custody in connection with the killing.
Shalaan al-Shalaan, the kingdom’s deputy public prosecutor, requested the death penalty for five who ‘are charged with ordering and committing the crime and for the appropriate sentences for the other indicted individuals’.
But he exonerated Saudi’s de-facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman by laying ultimate blame for Khashoggi’s killing at the feet of two lesser officials.
Executions in Saudi Arabia are usually carried out publicly by beheading with a sword.
Source: Daily Mail UK