A mural displays the logo "2030 Vision" and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, October…
Photo: Bloomberg Photo By Simon Dawson
ISTANBUL – Saudi Arabia prosecutor said Thursday that Jamal Khashoggi was killed in a planned operation and cited information received from Turkish investigators in Istanbul according to a statement from the government’s foreign ministry.
It is the latest turn of the Saudi authorities, who said last week that Khashoggi was accidentally killed in a fistfight at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by “villain” agents. President Donald Trump had originally said that the statement was credible, but in recent days he expressed doubts and called it “the worst coverup ever”.
According to the statement, a joint Saudi investigation team indicated that the suspects had committed their actions with a prevented intention. “
The message stressed the rapid pressure on Saudi Arabia to fully enlighten Khashoggi’s killing after its earlier declarations opposed Turkey and faced skepticism by the United States, a close Saudi ally.
Still, neither Trump nor Saudi Arabia has been willing to implicate Saudi leadership in the killing of the journalist. US intelligence officials and legislators as well as the European Union have said that an operation aimed at a critic of the royal court in a foreign country is unlikely to have been ordered without the knowledge of senior Saudi officials.
Thursday’s announcement comes days after the CIA director Gina Haspel traveled to Turkey listening to sounds that claimed the murder of the journalist and gave a key member in Trump’s office access to the central evidence. Turkey has used to assert that the killing was planned.
It came also two days after the trip kay president Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Khashoggi killed “brutally” and “planned” and demanded that the perpetrators be handed over to Turkey.
The Foreign Ministry did not say what led the Saudi prosecutor to draw the conclusion, only based on information shared by Turkish investigators working with Saudi officials in Turkey. According to the statement, the Saudi prosecutor will continue his investigation based on the new information.
Soon after Khashoggi disappeared on October 2, when retrieving a document at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, they told the Turkish authorities that he was a victim of a mediator killed by 15 Saudi Arabian agents sent to Turkey on a mission to permanently silence the journalist , who had been critical of Saudi prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi Arabia initially denied knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate, but last week said it had been arrested 18 people and dismissed five senior officials after a preliminary investigation revealed he was killed in a fistfight at the consulate during a botched intelligence operation.
The attack was accompanied by a announcement that King Salman placed his son, Mohammed, in charge of restructuring the Saudi intelligence apparatus – a move that all excluded speculation that the Crown Prince should be sanctioned.
Mohammed has denied previous knowledge of the mission and on Wednesday the journalist called to kill “a cruel crime”.
In another sign that the nation is trying to contain the widespread fallout, Salah Khashoggi, the oldest son of Jamal Khashoggi, has left Saudi Arabia, two people said close to the family on Thursday. The son, a double American Saudi citizen who was photographed and received condolences from Salman and Mohammed on Tuesday, had previously been restricted from leaving.
The photos of him who met the king and the crown prince were released by the Saudi government in an obvious effort to show off their sympathy. Instead, the photo-induced beauty of social media evoked, with critics accusing them of using the sad zone.
Turkey has long dismissed the Saudi claim of an unfortunate death and has pressured the Kingdom to acknowledge that Khashoggi was intentionally targeted at death.
Turkish officials have discounted Saudi Arabia’s ability to conduct a credible investigation considering that the Royal Court was behind the operation. Officials noted that two of Mohammed’s closest advisors were dismissed last week when the Kingdom said that Khashoggi died in a fistfight.
“We have initially maintained that the Khashoggi assassination was premature,” said a senior Turkish official to Washington Post shortly after the Saudi announcement on Thursday. “We owe Jamal and his dear to reveal all the truth. The criminal investigation continues in Turkey.”
Khashoggi, 59, was a contributing opinion author of The Post who lived in Virginia after leaving Saudi Arabia because of fear of his safety. He had planned to settle in Istanbul and marry his Turkish fiancee when he was imprisoned and killed in the Saudi consulate. His remains have not yet been found.
Even on Thursday, the European Union issued a new condemnation of the Khashoggi killing and repeated its skepticism that it could have been done without Muhammad’s knowledge.
The European Parliament approved an ineffective resolution on Thursday as a response to an EU-wide arms embargo against Saudi Arabia. The decision came several days after Germany became the first Western government to postpone arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest arms importer.
France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May both spoke by phone with King Salman, according to a statement issued by the Saudi Foreign Ministry late Thursday after the European Parliament’s resolution was adopted.
According to an Elysee Palace reading of the conversation, Macron pressed his Saudi counterpart more clearly about what happened to Khashoggi and told France that French regard freedom expressed and freedom of press is an “important priority”.
But Britain and France have both stopped not putting up arms sales to the desert.
Through a steady stream of leakage to Turkish and foreign media, Turkish officials have mounted a convincing case that the Saudi agents planned to kill Khashoggi, remove him and dispose of their remnants. The Turks have identified a Saudi forensic specialist who is an expert on mobile autopsies and who had traveled to Istanbul today Khashoggi planned to visit the consulate. They also photographed Saudi Arabian diplomatic vehicles that scouted the forest areas in the days before Khashoggi disappeared.
In addition, the leaks have monitored images of a Saudi agent wearing Khashoggi clothes and a fake beard and leaving the consulate in an orchestrated bid to trick investigators to believe that the journalists had surely left the diplomatic mission, as the Saudi originally claimed.
The United States has already taken steps to penalize suspects detained or fired by Saudi Arabia, and lifted their visas.
State Secretary Mike Pompeo said he is working with the State Department on whether sanctions should be imposed on those responsible for the journalist’s death.
It was not immediately clear how Thursday’s announcement from Riyadh would affect Washington’s thinking among the twins demands of the congress for the severe punishment of Saudi Arabia, the nation at the center of Trump’s Middle East policy.
– – –  James McAuley in Paris and Quentin Ariès in Brussels contributed to this report.