Saudi Explanation of Jamal Khashoggi’s Killing Fails to Squelch Skepticism
Saudi Arabia&rsquos explanation of why its agents had strangled the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom&rsquos consulate in Istanbul was met with a flood of international skepticism on Saturday, even as President Trump stated this new account that he was killed right after a fistfight sounded credible.
A Saudi official supplied the kingdom&rsquos very first explanation for the involvement of a physician of forensic medicine specializing in autopsies &mdash a essential detail adding to international doubts about the kingdom&rsquos story. The physician was dispatched to help clean up fingerprints or other proof if necessary, the official mentioned, not to help dismember Mr. Khashoggi&rsquos physique in order to dispose of it soon after a premeditated assassination, as Turkish officials have charged.
The Saudis appeared to have bet heavily that they can persuade the globe that Mr. Khashoggi, a bespectacled 60-year-old writer, was strangled only right after he had engaged in a fistfight with a team of Saudi agents at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
In their most current version of events, they insisted that the agents had flown to Istanbul to carry out a mission with no any distinct authorization or even the information of the crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, 33, the kingdom&rsquos de facto ruler.
The credibility of the new account could decide the continued willingness of Western powers to work closely with Prince Mohammed, who has seized energy in the kingdom much more tightly than any ruler in at least half a century. The Trump administration has embraced him as the central pillar of its Middle East strategy &mdash from containing Iranian influence to reaching a peace deal among Israel and the Palestinians.
The new Saudi explanation of Mr. Khashoggi&rsquos disappearance emerged only after a lot more than two weeks of officials&rsquo insisting that Mr. Khashoggi had left the consulate.
The killing of Mr. Khashoggi, a resident of Virginia and a Washington Post columnist who left Saudi Arabia last year for voluntary exile, has spurred an extraordinary international backlash against the kingdom and the crown prince. The storm of recrimination has far exceeded the public criticism the crown prince previously received for the kidnapping of the Lebanese prime minister or for top a catastrophic war in Yemen.
But King Salman on Saturday only reinforced his assistance for the crown prince, his favored son, placing him in modify of an overhaul of Saudi intelligence services in response to the scandal.
Mr. Trump mentioned that he was willing to accept the new Saudi account even as lawmakers in both American political parties expressed grave doubts. They noted that the Saudi narrative was inconsistent with the conclusions of United States intelligence agencies and that the Saudis &mdash including the crown prince &mdash had depleted their credibility by maintaining for weeks that Mr. Khashoggi had left the consulate.
On Saturday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled that he, as well, would reject the Saudi explanation.
&ldquoWe will not let issues to remain covered,&rdquo Omer Celik, a spokesman for Mr. Erdogan&rsquos governing Justice and Development Party, stated in a report by the semiofficial Anadolu news agency. &ldquoWe will use all the opportunities that we have to reveal what occurred, and this is the intention of our president.&rdquo
Turkish officials have said they have audio recordings and other evidence that could discredit the new Saudi account by displaying that the team intended from the start off to assassinate and dismember Mr. Khashoggi.
A key part of that evidence, the Turks say, is the presence of the doctor specializing in autopsies, Salah al-Tubaigy, who they say moved swiftly and matter-of-factly to cut up the body. He even suggested to the agents working with him that they listen to music as he did whilst they carried out the gruesome operate, according to Turkey&rsquos account.
A Turkish official familiar with the investigation has stated that Dr. Tubaigy dismembered the body with a bone saw &mdash a standard instrument employed in autopsies &mdash that he had brought for that objective.
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Turkish officials, even so, have described that evidence only on the condition of anonymity. The authorities have declined to share the recordings or other evidence with the public or even with American intelligence agencies, with whom they often perform closely.
That reticence has raised inquiries about their potential to back up their statements, and skeptics have suggested that Mr. Erdogan might seek to avoid a full diplomatic rupture by reaching some accommodation with Saudi Arabia, an critical regional energy that has been each an ally and a rival to Turkey at occasions.
The senior Saudi official, who spoke on the situation of anonymity since the kingdom&rsquos investigation was continuing, mentioned the physician &ldquowas added to the team as a forensic professional.&rdquo
&ldquoIn case the group&rsquos presence was revealed and the operation was compromised,&rdquo the official mentioned, Dr. Tubaigy was expected to remove incriminating proof like fingerprints.
The official denied that the doctor brought a bone saw, as Turkish official have said. The Saudi official supplied no explanation for why the doctor was a specialist in autopsies rather than, say, in fingerprints or other proof.
On Saturday, the director of the Turkish Arab Media Association &mdash who is close to Mr. Erdogan and had been a pal Mr. Khashoggi&rsquos &mdash described the Saudi account as &ldquofar from reality.&rdquo
The director, Turan Kislakci, known as for a full accounting of the killing and urged the removal of the Saudi crown prince from energy.
&ldquoThis is not over. It&rsquos just starting,&rdquo he mentioned. &ldquoWe want Jamal&rsquos murderers to be punished,&rdquo he added, such as &ldquothe authority that gave the orders.&rdquo
Mr. Kislakci also demanded that the Saudis reveal the place of Mr. Khashoggi&rsquos remains.
&ldquoGive Jamal back to us,&rdquo he mentioned. &ldquoGive him back so we can raise his funeral.&rdquo
Amid the skepticism, the Saudi government has sought to convey the impression of enterprise as usual.
The Foreign Ministry tweeted a big photo of Prince Mohammed as the head of a high-level committee formed by the king to restructure the Saudi intelligence agency in the aftermath of Mr. Khashoggi&rsquos killing. The kingdom&rsquos allies around the region &mdash like Egypt and most of the Persian Gulf monarchs &mdash expressed powerful assistance for Saudi Arabia&rsquos self-investigation.
Saudi officials, meanwhile, sought to distance Prince Mohammed from any responsibility for the killing even as they singled out one particular of his closest advisers as the culprit, Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, the deputy chief of intelligence.
The Saudi official mentioned on Saturday that the kingdom&rsquos intelligence agency had issued only a basic order to retrieve dissidents in exile like Mr. Khashoggi, but had not specified the means to do so. The Saudis&rsquo internal investigation, the official mentioned, had concluded that General Assiri, on his personal, had put with each other a program to bring back Mr. Khashoggi.
But even though the crown prince had not explicitly ordered an abduction or assassination, the official asserted, &ldquoas the order went down the chain of command, the vagueness and aggressiveness improved,&rdquo and General Assiri and the team may possibly have interpreted &ldquoreturn him to the kingdom&rdquo as directions to kidnap Mr. Khashoggi.
It was not instantly clear how the planners of the mission obtained the use of two private charter jets from a firm close to the crown prince and the Interior Ministry. But the Saudi official acknowledged that 15 Saudis arrived in Istanbul on Oct. 2 &mdash the day Mr. Khashoggi disappeared inside the consulate &mdash as the Turks have mentioned.
The official said that the leaks from Turkish authorities had misidentified some of the 15 due to the fact of the spellings of their names or other particulars, but he did not disclose how a lot of individuals had been supposedly misidentified.
One particular member of the team, Gen. Maher Mutreb, was selected for the mission specifically due to the fact he knew Mr. Khashoggi. General Mutreb, an intelligence officer, had worked with Mr. Khashoggi when both had been stationed in the Saudi Embassy in London years ago, this person stated.
The participation of Basic Mutreb, even so, may possibly also undercut the Saudi assertions that Prince Mohammed was unaware of the plan. An investigation by The New York Times revealed that General Mutreb has regularly traveled with the crown prince in his entourage. At least three other Saudis named as suspects by the Turks seem to have hyperlinks to the crown prince as effectively.
The Saudi official said the 15 agents had been divided into three teams: a single for logistical assistance and transportation 1 for counter-surveillance and operational security and yet another for the execution of the operation. Yet another basic in addition to Basic Mutreb was component of the team.
The official said that the team had initially sought to persuade Mr. Khashoggi to return residence.
&ldquoHe didn&rsquot want to have the discussion, so far more or much less he attempted to leave the area,&rdquo the official said.
The agents attempted to cease him. An altercation ensued. Mr. Khashoggi began screaming, and a single of the agents put him in a chokehold.
&ldquoThat is how he died,&rdquo the official said. &ldquoIt didn&rsquot last that long.&rdquo
The official supplied no explanation for why Mr. Khashoggi would try to resist when he was overpowered. The official also stated that the Saudi authorities do not yet know what the agents did with the physique.
&ldquoThey say they gave it to 1 of their regional collaborators to dispose of,&rdquo the official said, although he declined to disclose no matter whether that &ldquocollaborator&rdquo was Saudi, Turkish or of yet another nationality.
The Saudis have announced 18 arrests in connection with the investigation, and the official mentioned those arrests incorporated the 15-member group, two consular workers and a driver. General Assiri was not among those arrested, raising questions about what consequences he may well face.
The official mentioned the group had sought to hide Mr. Khashoggi&rsquos killing from the crown prince. The crown prince began asking queries soon after specifics appeared in the Turkish media, the official stated. But he presented no explanation for why it took two weeks just before answers emerged.
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Published at Sat, 20 Oct 2018 16:58:57 +0000