There is ‘credible evidence’ linking Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince to the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last October, a report by an independent United Nations rights expert found on Wednesday, reported AFP.
According to the report by UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnes Callamard, ‘there is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi Officials’ individual liability, including the Crown Prince’s.”
In the report based on six months of investigation, Callamard said, “It is the conclusion of the Special Rapporteur that Mr Khashoggi has been the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law.”
In connection to the investigation, Callamard went to Turkey earlier this year with a team of forensic and legal experts and said she received evidence from Turkish authorities.
She also urged UN Secretary-General to establish an international probe into the responsibility of the Crown Prince.
Riyadh, however, did not give any immediate reaction over the 100-page report, which was sent to them in advance. Saudi Arabia has regularly maintained its stance that denied the involvement of the prince.
Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of the prince and a Washington Post columnist, was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 2, 2018, where he went to receive papers ahead of his wedding.
His body was dismembered and removed from the building, the Saudi prosecutor has said, and his remains have not been found.
Here’s a look at the developments in the case so far:
Who is Jamal Khashoggi?
Saudi-born Khashoggi, 59, was a prominent journalist who shifted to the US last year after alleging ‘threat to life’ in the Kingdom for his moderate views on religion.
His breakthrough moment came when he interviewed 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan before al-Qaida was formed.
Khashoggi worked as a prominent figure in Saudi media and held many important designations during his stay in the Kingdom. He was regarded as a moderate Islamist and was frequently quoted in the Western media as an expert on Islamic radicals and a reformist voice.
For decades, he was close to the Saudi royal family and also served as an adviser to the government. But he fell out of favour and went into self-imposed exile in the US in 2017 from where he wrote a monthly column in the Washington Post, criticising the policies of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
In a column for the newspaper, Khashoggi had said he feared being arrested after Prince Mohammed bin Salman became first in line to succeed his father King Salman, hinting at the former’s extreme disliking for dissent.
Why was he at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul?
Khashoggi visited the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain a document certifying that he had divorced his ex-wife so that he could marry Hatice Cengiz, his Turkish fiance.
After entering the embassy in his October 2 visit, he did not make an exit. The CCTV footage of the area showed him entering the place at 13:14 local time but did not show him leaving the place.
His fiance, who waited for him for over 10 hours outside the consulate, reached out to the authorities to start search operations for him. She even wrote a letter to US President Donald Trump, who acknowledged the same in his first reaction over the issue.
Denial by Saudi Arabia
The Kingdom maintained its denial of the murder. Days after the incident, Prince Mohammed Bin Salman told Bloomberg News in an interview that Khashoggi had left the consulate shortly after entering it and that he was ready to let Turkey search the building.
Strained ties between Turkey and Saudi Arabia
Khashoggi’s disappearance also threatened to degrade the relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Turkey remained wary of Saudi’s stance. Expressing his distrust over the Saudi government’s statement, President Tayyip Erdogan had said, “We have to get an outcome from this investigation as soon as possible. The consulate officials cannot save themselves by simply saying ‘he has left’.”
Ties between both the countries were already strained after Turkey sent troops to Qatar in 2017 in a show of support after its Gulf neighbours, including Saudi Arabia, imposed sanctions on Doha. Turkey’s proximity to the Muslim Brotherhood also makes it going against the Saudis, who count the organisation among terror outfits.
Crown Prince Salman, however, sent a security team to Ankara to assist the Turkish agencies in the search operations.
Confirmation of death
Saudi Arabia confirmed on October 20 that Khashoggi was killed in a ‘fist fight’ which broke out between him and the people in the consulate. It also said it has fired two of its senior officials, royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani and deputy intelligence chief Ahmed Asiri, in the matter besides arresting 18 others.
The Kingdom, however, shielded the Crown Prince from the matter, stating he was not aware of the matter. Calling the killing of Khashoggi at its Istanbul consulate a “huge and grave mistake”, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told US broadcaster Fox, “This was an operation that was a rogue operation. This was an operation where individuals ended up exceeding the authorities and responsibilities they had.”
The Kingdom also called over Khashoggi’s son Salah and condoled his father’s demise.
Reacting to the news, Trump said the arrests made by Saudi were a “good first step” but he would not be satisfied until he gets all the answers. “No, I am not satisfied until we find the answer. But it was a big first step, it was a good first step. But I want to get to the answer,” Reuters quoted him as saying.
There were reports in Turkish media that Khashoggi’s body was chopped into pieces and taken in a black vehicle outside the consulate.
Erdogan too has promised that within 48 hours he would remove the lid entirely from what his spokesmen are now calling a Saudi cover-up. “We will reveal it,” his quote published in New York Times read. “It will be revealed in full nakedness.”
An investigation by the US agency CIA concluded that Khashoggi’s murder was likely ordered by the heir to the Saudi crown.
Also, findings of Callamard’s inquiry states that the investigations conducted by Saudi Arabia and Turkey failed to meet international standards regarding the investigation into unlawful deaths.