FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 2, 2018 file photo, a video image of Hatice Cengiz, fiancee of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is played during an event to remember Khashoggi, who was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 2, 2018 file photo, a video image of Hatice Cengiz, fiancee of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is played during an event to remember Khashoggi, who was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Saudi prosecutor seeks death penalty in Khashoggi’s killing

Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor is recommending the death penalty for five suspects charged with ordering and carrying out the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor said Thursday he’s seeking the death penalty for five suspects charged with ordering and carrying out the killing of dissident Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

The disclosures by the prosecution appear aimed at distancing the killers and their operation from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose decision-making powers have thrust him into the centre of a global outcry over the killing.

Chief Saudi prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb’s decision to seek the death penalty before trial is not unusual in Saudi Arabia.

Facing mounting international pressure, prosecutors also pointed the finger at two men who were part of the crown prince’s inner circle, but stopped short of accusing them of ordering a hit on Khashoggi. The two are instead being accused of ordering Khashoggi’s forced return in an operation the Saudis allege went awry.

In a press conference later Thursday, Sheikh Shalan al-Shalan, spokesman and deputy attorney-general, said the Oct. 2 killing was ordered by one man: the individual responsible for the negotiating team sent to forcibly bring Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia.

He did not disclose that individual’s name, but said he was part of a 15-man team sent to Turkey comprised of three groups: negotiators, intelligence and logistics.

He said that on the morning of the killing, the leader of the negotiating team saw that he would not be able to force Khashoggi to return “so he decided to kill him in the moment.”

This appears to contradict a previous Saudi statement quoting Turkish intelligence saying the killing had been premeditated.

Al-Shalan said that Khashoggi’s killers had set in motion plans for the operation on Sept. 29 — three days before his slaying in Istanbul. He says the killers drugged and killed the writer inside the consulate, before dismembering the body and handing it over for disposal by an unidentified local collaborator. The body has never been found.

The brutal death of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who had been critical of the crown prince, has sent shock waves around the world and led analysts and officials to believe a sensitive operation of this magnitude could not have been carried out without the prince’s knowledge.

Read more: Canada stands pat on Saudi arms sales, even after hearing Khashoggi tape

Read more: Turkey to Saudi Arabia: Where is Khashoggi’s body?

The latest Saudi account of what took place failed to appease officials in Turkey, who insist the killing and its coverup were carried out by the highest levels of government.

“We did not find some of his explanations to be satisfactory,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said after the Saudi announcement.

“Those who gave the order, the real perpetrators need to be revealed. This process cannot be closed down in this way,” he added.

Through a series of orchestrated leaks, including audio of the killing shared with Western intelligence, Turkey has attempted to keep pressure on the crown prince, who sees Turkey as a regional rival.

Turkey alleges that among those sent to Istanbul was a forensics expert.

In an apparent reference this specialist, al-Shalan said the organizer of the operation — who was not named — called on a specialist to be part of the team to erase evidence if Khashoggi needed to be forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia. Prosecutors said this specialist was working without the direct knowledge of his boss.

Saudi Arabia said 21 people are now in custody, with 11 indicted and referred to trial. The Turkish government is demanding the suspects be investigated and put on trial in Turkey.

Among the high-level officials incriminated in connection with the killing is former deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri, who was fired in the immediate aftermath of the killing.

Al-Assiri, believed to have been a close confidant of Prince Mohammed, and former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani are accused of planning and ordering Khashoggi’s forced return to Saudi Arabia. Prosecutors say the men formed a 15-man Saudi team to carry out the operation.

Saudi prosecutors said the men deemed Khashoggi a threat because of his work as a writer and because he was allegedly backed by groups and countries that are hostile to Saudi Arabia.

However, Saudi prosecutors stopped short of accusing al-Assiri or al-Qahtani of ordering the killing itself — further distancing the killers from the crown prince’s inner circle and bolstering Saudi assertions that the killing was carried out by rogue agents who exceeded their authority. Both men were fired from their posts last month amid fallout from the killing.

Khashoggi had been living in self-imposed exile abroad for nearly a year before he was killed by Saudi agents at the consulate on Oct. 2. In his writing, he was especially critical of the crown prince, who’d been leading a wide-reaching crackdown on activists and critics inside the kingdom since last year.

Khashoggi had gone to the consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage. His Turkish fiancee waited outside and first raised the alarm about his disappearance.

___

Aya Batrawy, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Sipili Molia, regional kettle manager, shows off the Salvation Army’s new contactless donation system for the 2020 Christmas Kettle Campaign outside municipal hall on Dec. 1. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
VIDEO: Tech offers hope as Salvation Army sees need skyrocket across B.C.

Charity is equipping hundreds of kettles across B.C. with ‘touchless giving technology’

Kathy MacNeil, president and chief executive officer of Island Health, Dawn Thomas, acting deputy health minister and Island Health’s vice president, Indigenous health and diversity and Chief Don Tom of Tsartlip First Nation, stand out Saanich Peninsula Hospital Tuesday morning, when they also answered questions about a new report that “widespread systemic racism against Indigenous people” in the provincial health care system. (Island Health/Submitted)
Head of Island Health says Saanich Peninsula Hospital not part of racist guessing game

Tsartlip First Nations Chief Don Tom welcomes changes following report but promises future scrutiny

Firefighters on scene for a gas leak in the 800-block of Viewfield Road in Esquimalt on Dec. 1. (Vanessa Nicholson photo)
No injuries after vehicle strikes Esquimalt gas line

Esquimalt Fire Rescue was called to the 800-block of Viewfield Road at 5 p.m.

The Capital Regional District and the Habitat Acquisition Fund have agreed to partner on the purchase of the $3.4-million Mountain View Forest in Saanich to establish a new regional park. (Photo courtesy the Habitat Acquisition Trust)
CRD, Habitat Acquisition Trust to spend $3.4M on 20-hectare forest park in Saanich

Mountian Road Forest property to be conserved as regional park

Caroline Sousa, Bela Spick and her son Mateo marched along Prospect Lake Road in November 2019 to bring attention to the unsafe conditions on the road. (Black Press Media file photo)
Saanich reduces Prospect Lake Road speed limit to 30 km/h

New speed limit in effect as of Dec. 1 from Goward Road to Estelline Road

A tongue-in-cheek message about wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 on a sign outside a church near Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection count climbs back up to 656

20 more people in hospital, active cases still rising

Dave Wallace coached the Parksville Royals for 23 years. (PQB News file photo)
B.C. baseball community mourns death of legendary Vancouver Island coach Dave Wallace

‘All who knew Dave and his passion for the game will miss him greatly’

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C. researchers launch study to test kids, young adults for COVID-19 antibodies

Kids and youth can often be asymptomatic carriers of the novel coronavirus

A sign is seen this past summer outside the Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
B.C. First Nation leaders await privacy commissioner decision on COVID-19 information

Release of life-saving data cannot wait, says coalition of First Nations

MLA Jennifer Whiteside is B.C.’s new minister of education. She is speaking out against Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld and asking him to resign. (Black Press)
New education minister calls on Chilliwack trustee to resign

Whiteside echoes former minister’s promise to look at options to remove Barry Neufeld

Peter Beckett. ~ File photo
Supreme Court of Canada to decide if it will hear appeal in 2010 wife murder trial

Peter Beckett has stood trial twice for murder in connection with the death of his wife, Laura Letts-Beckett

Tabor Home in Abbotsford. (Ben Lypka/Abbotsford News)
B.C.’s largest COVID-19 care-home outbreak records 19 deaths, 147 cases

Tabor Home in Abbotsford has been battling outbreak since Nov. 4

Most Read