Saudi Arabia admits Khashoggi died in consulate, Trump calls Saudi explanation ‘credible’

Jamal Khashoggi
Jamal Khashoggi

Saudi Arabia said on Friday that journalist Jamal Khashoggi died in a fight inside its Istanbul consulate and said it had fired two senior officials over the incident, giving an account that U.S. President Donald Trump said was credible.

Saudi Arabia’s acknowledgement that Khashoggi died came after two weeks of denials and growing demands from Western allies for an explanation over Khashoggi’s disappearance, which galvanised a global outcry and prompted some U.S. lawmakers to call for harsh action against Riyadh.

Saudi state media said King Salman had ordered the dismissal of two senior officials over the incident: Saud al-Qahtani, a royal court advisor seen as the right-hand man to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and deputy intelligence chief Ahmed Asiri, a statement on state media said.

“I think it’s a good first step, it’s a big step. It’s a lot of people, a lot of people involved, and I think it’s a great first step,” Trump told reporters.

“Saudi Arabia has been a great ally. What happened is unacceptable.”

Though Trump said Riyadh’s account was credible, it drew doubt from some U.S. lawmakers.

Khashoggi, a critic of the crown prince, went missing after entering the consulate on October 2 to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage.

 Jamal Khashoggi is shown with his Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz
Jamal Khashoggi is shown with his Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz. Cengiz, was the last person to see Khashoggi when he disappeared inside the Saudi Arabian consulate to take care of the paperwork for their marriage.

Days later, Turkish officials said they believed he was killed in the building, an allegation that Saudi Arabia had, until now, strenuously denied.

In a separate statement on Saturday, the Saudi public prosecutor said a fight broke out between Khashoggi and people who met him in the consulate, leading to his death.

“The investigations are still underway and 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested,” the statement said.

The disappearance of Khashoggi, a U.S. resident and Washington Post columnist, had led to mounting pressure from the West on Saudi Arabia to provide convincing answers.

Before the Saudi announcements, Trump said he might consider sanctions, although he has also appeared unwilling to distance himself too much from the Saudis, citing Riyadh’s role in countering Iranian influence in the Middle East and lucrative potential arms deals.

The White House said in a statement that it had seen the Saudi announcement and would continue to press for “justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process.”

But some U.S. lawmakers expressed doubt about the Saudi explanation.

“To say that I am skeptical of the new Saudi narrative about Mr. Khashoggi is an understatement,” said Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a Trump ally who has been sharply critical of Saudi Arabia over the incident.

Democratic U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal told CNN the Saudi explanation “absolutely defies credibility” and called for an international investigation of Khashoggi’s death.

Turkish sources have told Reuters the authorities have an audio recording purportedly documenting Khashoggi’s murder inside the consulate.

Turkish pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak has published what it said were details from the audio. It said Khashoggi’s torturers had severed his fingers during an interrogation and later beheaded and dismembered him.

“No orders to kill him”

The disappearance of Khashoggi has tarnished Prince Mohammed’s reputation and deepened questions about his leadership.

King Salman has handed the day-to-day running of Saudi Arabia to his son, commonly known as MbS. But the growing crisis prompted him to intervene, five sources with links to the Saudi royal family told Reuters.

The king has ordered the formation of a ministerial committee headed by the crown prince to restructure the general intelligence agency, state media said on Friday.

The crown prince had no knowledge of the specific operation that resulted in Khashoggi’s death, a Saudi official familiar with the investigation said.

“There were no orders for them to kill him or even specifically kidnap him,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity and adding that there was a standing order to bring critics of the kingdom back to the country.

“MbS had no knowledge of this specific operation and certainly did not order a kidnapping or murder of anybody. He will have been aware of the general instruction to tell people to come back,” the official said.

The official said the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body were unclear after it was handed over to a “local cooperator” but there was no sign of it at the consulate.

In Istanbul, Turkish prosecutors investigating Khashoggi’s disappearance questioned Turkish employees of the Saudi consulate on Friday, widening the hunt for clues in a case straining Riyadh’s alliance with Western powers.

Turkish police searched a forest on Istanbul’s outskirts and a city near the Sea of Marmara for Khashoggi’s remains, two senior Turkish officials told Reuters, after tracking the routes of cars that left the consulate and the consul’s residence on the day he vanished.

Investigators have recovered samples from searches of both buildings to analyse for traces of Khashoggi’s DNA.

Speaking to reporters in Scottsdale, Arizona, ahead of the Saudi announcements, Trump said it was too early to say what the consequences for the incident might be, but that the U.S.

Congress would be involved in determining the American response. Asked whether Saudi sanctions were one of the measures he was considering, Trump said, “Could be, could be,” though he provided no details.

“We’re going to find out who knew what when and where. And we’ll figure it out,” Trump added.

Turkey said it had not shared with any country audio recordings purportedly documenting Khashoggi’s murder, dismissing reports it had passed them to the United States.

“We will share the results that emerge transparently with the whole world,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.’

(Reuters)/FRANCE24

  • Niemals

    Trump stands on the dictatorship side
    “I think it’s a good first step, it’s a big step. It’s a lot of people, a lot of people involved, and I think it’s a great first step,” Trump told reporters.

    “Saudi Arabia has been a great ally. What happened is unacceptable.”
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d64c152d87bf1c1ed9f8de527e2d8d8a86799c1e9e207a9c05e3b50b7c501002.jpg
    The US president is on the dictatorship and believes that the ridiculous explanation for Khashoggi’s death is “credible”.
    Donald Trump protects US arms exports and possibly his own business interests at the price of his biggest foreign policy crisis so far – and a conflict with the US Congress.

    Trump chooses Arab authoritarianism over Jamal Khashoggi
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9939a4206be7f6ad47417fe35c2d96ac3905ee4fc52172d0b2beda620af90f3c.jpg

  • Niemals

    Canada stands on the dictatorship side!
    Trudeau sticks to $12bn arms deal with Saudis despite Khashoggi killing.

    Canada’s PM says it is “very difficult” to drop the US$12 billion (Can$15 billion) deal on arms sales to Riyadh. It comes despite mounting allegations that the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was “pre-planned.”

    The murder of the self-exiled writer which Turkey says was planned beforehand “is something that is extremely preoccupying to Canadians, to Canada and to many of our allies around the world” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged. However, even on the heels of the latest tough accusations from Ankara, the North American country is not mulling to halt arms deliveries to the Saudi Kingdom.

    The contract signed by the previous government, by Stephen Harper, makes it very difficult to suspend or leave that contract

    Should Canada terminate the deal, massive penalties will follow immediately, taking a toll on taxpayers.
    It is estimated that Ottawa would lose around US$800,000 (Can$1 billion).

    “I do not want to leave Canadians holding a billion-dollar bill because we are trying to move forward on doing the right thing,” the liberal premier added without elaborating on what “the right thing” would look like.

    Less than two weeks ago, he also signaled that Canadian-Saudi arms trade will go on as usual, despite again voicing “concerns” about Khashoggi’s fate.

    According to documentsobtained by CBC News in September, Saudi Arabian armed forces are to take delivery of 742 Canadian-built LAV-6 light armored vehicles. The same outlet revealed in March that hundreds of the LAV-6s will be furnished with heavy assault and anti-tank weapons systems.

    Germany, for instance, imposed a blanket ban on weapons deliveries, with the Kanzlerin Merkel noting “the urgent need for clarification of exactly what happened” in the Saudi Consulate.

    However I don’t understand why our ally Macron is still keeping silent.

  • Niemals

    Erdogan does not care about Khashoggi murder

    With the horrific murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Turkey’s Erdoğan has been given a perfect tool for showing a polished image of its country.

    But the truth is that the president’s interest in the case is not about he’s eager for a free press.
    He himself puts a record in capturing journalists. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/9f92e06c69265dfe0be2c49056d82fe1002b2a305e669fac9835207cbdc9eec7.jpg notice Erdogan’s Muslim brotherhood greeting…

    Erdoğan held last week a speech about the murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. But why does the man care who suddenly captures most journalists around the world about a journalist?

    “Why didn’t you publish the recordings?” “Where is the body?”
    The questions are in the air, but Turkey’s President Erdoğan does not intend to answer them.
    However, he continues to exploit the horrific murder of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi for his own purposes.