News People Khashoggi’s son flees to US with family as Saudis now say journalist’s murder was ‘premeditated’

Khashoggi’s son flees to US with family as Saudis now say journalist’s murder was ‘premeditated’

Salah Khashoggi on the left meets Crown Prince Salman in Riyadh on October 23. Photo: AAP
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Murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s eldest son and family have reportedly arrived in the US after lengthy behind-the-scenes talks between the US and Riyadh.

Sources close to the family say Salah Khashoggi, who holds US-Saudi citizenship and had thus far been banned from international travel, arrived in Washington on Friday (Thursday local time) with his family, joining his mother and three siblings.

Mr Khashoggi’s departure comes 24 hours after a meeting at the al Yamama Palace in Riyadh in which he and other family members received condolences from King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and
his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met Saudi leaders in Riyadh earlier this month saying “he wanted Salah Khashoggi returned to the United States”, according to the US State Department.

The department’s deputy spokesman Robert Palladino welcomed the news.

“We are pleased that is the case,” Mr Palladino said, reiterating the United States continues to press for “all the relevant facts” in the killing of Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

The Saudi public prosecutor said the murder of Khashoggi, 59, a Washington Post columnist and critic of the kingdom’s de facto ruler Prince Salman, referred to as MBS, was premeditated, revising previous statements that his death was unintended.

On Friday (Thursday local time), Saudi state TV quoted the Saudi public prosecutor as saying prosecutors were interrogating suspects on the basis of information provided by a joint Saudi-Turkish task force.

“Information from the Turkish side affirms that the suspects in Khashoggi’s case premeditated their crime,” the statement carried by state TV said.

Turkish officials and some US lawmakers allege the Crown prince ordered the operation in which Khashoggi was killed.

A photograph of the meeting published by the official Saudi Press Agency showed Salah Khashoggi staring coldly at the prince as the pair shook hands.

CIA hears recordings of killing

The Saudi disclosure comes as CIA director Gina Haspel heard an audio recording of the killing during a fact-finding visit to Turkey this week.

A European security source who was briefed by people who listened to the audio said of the recording:

“There was an argument at the beginning, they insulted each other, it then developed. (Saudis said) ‘Let’s give a lesson to him’.”

Ms Haspel briefed President Donald Trump on Turkey’s findings and her discussions, White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said.

How Western allies deal with Riyadh will hinge on the extent to which they believe responsibility for Khashoggi’s death lies directly with the prince and the Saudi authorities.

Saudi Arabia reacted in the days following Khashoggi’s disappearance by arresting 18 people and sacking five senior government officials.

Two separate locations outside Istanbul have been searched after DNA samples, including soil and water, were taken from the consulate, in search of his remains, which have so far not been located.

-with agencies