Saudi Arabia’s chief prosecutor has recommended the death penalty for five rogue officers over the brutal death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In a rare media conference on Thursday, Saud al-Mojeb said 21 people were in custody, with 11 indicted and referred to trial. He said he would seek the death penalty for five.
Mr al-Mojeb said Khashoggi’s killers had set in motion plans for his murder on September 29, three days before the journalist was killed inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in Turkey on October 2.
Khashoggi had entered the consul, as his fiancee Hatice Cengiz waited outside, to get paperwork for his coming wedding.
After several versions of how Khashoggi died were released in the subsequent weeks, deputy public prosecutor and spokesman Shaalan al-Shaalan now says he was killed – after a struggle – by lethal injection. His body was dismembered and taken out of the building.
Mr Shalaan said Khashoggi was murdered after “negotiations” for his return to Saudi Arabia failed. The killing was ordered by the lead negotiator after he decided it was unfeasible to remove Khashoggi from the consulate.
He said the order to repatriate Khashoggi came from former deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Asiri, who was sacked last month.
Mr Shalaan said Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, knew nothing of the operation to kill Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi royal family.
Two seaside towns and forested areas south of Istanbul have been searched for his remains. Nothing has yet been found.
Earlier, on November 1, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the Saudi government to reveal the identities of the “puppet masters” behind Khashoggi’s brutal death.
“The killing of Khashoggi is inexplicable,” he wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post, adding the order to kill the journalist came from the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.
Mr Erdogan said Turkey’s friendship with Riyadh did not mean that his country would turn a blind eye to the “premeditated murder that unfolded in front of our very eyes”. He added that he did not believe that Saudi King Mohammed bin Salman had ordered the killing.
“I do not believe for a second that King Salman, the custodian of the holy mosques, ordered the hit on Khashoggi,” he said.
On November 2, Ms Cengiz appealed to US President Donald Trump in a video message to mark the one-month anniversary of her fiance’s death.
“I would like him [Mr Trump] to support Turkey’s efforts in trying to bring light to this situation and to discover the whereabouts of his body,” she said.
Mr Trump has condemned Khashoggi’s killing in strong terms. However, he has also defended US arms sales to Saudi Arabia – the Middle East nation is the biggest foreign customer for American weaponry.
Following Mr Shalaan’s account, the US Treasury announced sanctions on 17 Saudis for their roles in the killing. They include Saud al-Qahtani, a former top aide to Prince Mohammed, and Istanbul Consul-General Mohammed Alotaibi, a source told Reuters.
The sanctions, announced on Thursday, will be implemented under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which targets perpetrators of serious human rights abuses and corruption.
“These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions,” US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said.