A Saudi royal adviser and a senior intelligence official played key roles in the mission that ultimately led to the killing of government critic Jamal Khashoggi and authorities will seek the death penalty for five people who confessed to the murder, according to a top official in the kingdom.
Shalaan Shalaan, the deputy attorney general, said in a Riyadh news conference that 11 people out of 21 held in the case have been charged over Khashoggi’s murder at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who runs the day-to-day affairs of the world’s top oil exporter, had no knowledge of the mission, he added.
The latest Saudi account of what happened to Khashoggi was quickly dismissed by Turkey, with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu calling the statements “unsatisfactory” and demanding the “real instigator” of the murder be identified.
Turkey has shared an audio recording of the killing with the U.S., France, Canada, Germany and the U.K., but it has stopped just short of blaming Prince Mohammed. On Wednesday it called for an international investigation into the case.
The Saudi prosecutor said Khashoggi was killed by the injection of a “large dose” of an anesthetic drug after a fight that ended with him being restrained. He also confirmed Turkish reports that Khashoggi’s body was cut up and that a body double later threw the columnist’s clothes, watch and glasses in a dumpster.
The killing of Khashoggi, a palace insider who turned critic, has provoked a global outcry and tarnished the reputation of the 33-year-old crown prince, whose efforts to cast himself as a bolder reformer and trusted U.S. ally have often chafed against his policies abroad.
Saudi Arabia stuck by its earlier narrative that the Washington Post columnist was killed after a mission to abduct him went awry. The deputy chief of intelligence ordered that Khashoggi be brought back to the kingdom by coercion or by force, Shalaan said. A team of 15 people was formed to carry out the job, he added.
Asked whether Saud al-Qahtani, an aide to Prince Mohammed, had any role in the case, Shalaan said that a royal adviser had a coordinating role and had provided information. The adviser believed that Khashoggi had been co-opted by organizations and countries hostile to the kingdom “and his presence abroad represented a danger to national security,” the prosecutor said.
The former adviser was now under investigation, the prosecutor said, declining to reveal the names of any of those facing charges. The prosecution “demands the death penalty for those who ordered and executed the killing and they’re five people,” he said.
The leader of the operation and others involved agreed to send a falsified report that Khashoggi had left the consulate, he added. Prince Mohammed, in his first remarks about the Khashoggi case on Oct. 3, told Bloomberg in an interview that Khashoggi had left the premises.
Saudi Arabia has asked Turkey to share the results of its investigation and recordings of the killing, and is planning to sign a “special mechanism” to ensure this happens, according to Shalaan. “The prosecution is still waiting for Turkey to hand over what was asked of them,” he said. Last month, Turkish officials accused another Saudi prosecutor, Saud al-Mojeb, of being uncooperative during a visit to Istanbul.
The kingdom has repeatedly denied Prince Mohammed, widely known as MBS, had any knowledge of the operation.