The Jamal Khashoggi Case: New Evidence And Revisit
Jamal Khashoggi, a journalist just like every other but with an Anti-Mohammed Bin Salman stance, was murdered in a cold, brutal and devastating way on 2nd october 2018.
To understand the current movements, a brief recap is necessary.
Khashoggi was a US-based journalist, who wrote for the Washington Post on occasion. He had cordial relations with the Saudi royal family, even working as an advisor to them for decades, until this good faith was lost due to oppositional articles he wrote, after which he went into self-exile due to fear of persecution.
On 2nd October, Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate of Turkey to obtain a document to prove that he was, in fact, divorced. This would allow him to marry his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, a Turkish academic. While he was in the consulate, she waited for him outside and fantasized about their simple marriage.
Jamal Khashoggi knew that going into the Saudi consulate would mean that his phone would be taken away at the entrance. Hence, he left two phones with Cengiz and told her that, even though he was sure nothing of unusual nature would occur, if something were to happen, she must call his friend, who was an advisor to the President of Turkey.
After waiting for hours, she saw them close down the consulate, which prompted her to finally ask someone to go check for him at 15:30. The man that went to look for him said that Khasoggi was not in the building anymore.
For over two weeks, Saudi Arabia claimed that they knew nothing of this disappearance and that Khashoggi left after “a few minutes or an hour”. No Turkish authority was allowed to enter the embassy during this period.
Saudi Arabia claims that his death in their consulate in Turkey was due to a “rogue operation” and that the group was supposed to persuade him to come back to the country using “force” if necessary. The suspects said that his mouth was covered because he was screaming, which suffocated him. They said that his death was not premeditated.
Saudi investigators concluded that he was restrained and administered a drug that resulted in an overdose, killing him. His body was dismembered and handed over to a “collaborator” to be thrown away.
According to Saudi Arabia, in late September, thirty-one individuals were investigated and twenty people were arrested. Turkey asked for these men to be extradited so that they could face trial in Turkey, but this request was denied.
In January, 2019, eleven unnamed individuals were put to trial. In December, 2019, five of them were sentenced to death for direct involvement and three others got terms adding up to twenty-four years for covering up the crime and violating the law. The rest were found ‘not guilty’.
According to the UN’s Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, it was "utterly ridiculous" and the trial represented "the antithesis of justice" from which the "masterminds" walked free.
Turkey says that fifteen agents, including three Saudi intelligence officers had arrived in Istanbul just days before Khashoggi’s embassy visit, and had erased all the footage from the Embassy’s surveillance cameras. They say that within minutes of his arrival, he was killed and his body was dismembered.
Turkish Erdogan has criticised Saudi Arabia for the minimal information that they have released on this issue, but has refused to accuse MBS, citing religious reasons
In mid-November, 2018, Turkey released audio clips from the Embassy from the day of Khasoggi’s death. These clips were sent to Saudi Arabia, the United States and the United Kingdom along with a few others. The clips were recorded by Agnes Callamard, who placed a bug in the consulate for an “unrelated operation”.
The following are some key observations from the audio clips:
i) Two Saudi officials were heard discussing how to cut up and transport a body just minutes before Jamal Khashoggi entered the consulate, referring to him as “the sacrificial animal”
ii) Khashoggi was told by the officials, “"We will have to take you back. There is an order from Interpol. Interpol requested you to be sent back. We are coming to get you."
iii) At 13:33, he was told “We will anaesthetise you." This was followed by sounds of a struggle, during which people are heard saying "Did he sleep?" and "Keep pushing." Then, there were sounds of movement, heavy panting, and plastic sheets.
iv) At 13:39, there was a sound that Turkish Intelligence said belonged to an electric saw, but were uncertain about it.
v) After Khashoggi’s first visit to the consulate, there was an immediate call to, Callamard believes, Saud al-Qahtani. Callamard believes that he authorised the killing under MBS.
According to Callamard’s analysis:
This murder was premeditated and SA was responsible
There was "credible evidence" to warrant an investigation into MBS and other high-level Saudi officials
There was also credible evidence that the site had been “thoroughly and forensically cleaned”
MBS should be subject to the targeted sanctions
CCTV footage shows the fifteen agents, at around 15:00, being transported in consular vehicles to the Consul’s residence. In addition, they were carrying two trash bags and one rolling suitcase
On 1st October, three known Saudi intelligence officers flew to Turkey in order to supposedly conduct a recon mission. On 2nd October, nine others, including forensic pathologist Dr. Salah al-Tubaigy, landed in a private jet.
In May 2020, Khashoggi’s son said in a tweet that he and his family were pardoning those who killed their father. But, many say that this statement was not under free will especially since Jamal Khashoggi’s son is not even allowed to leave Saudi Arabia. Nevertheless, this meant that the killers were formally reprieved under Saudi Law.
Another fact to be noted: American spy agencies in 2017 intercepted a phone call in which Prince Mohammed told a top aide he would use “a bullet” on Khashoggi if he didn’t cease his incessant criticism. However, MBS denied any involvement in the Jamal Khashoggi case.
The Turkish trial to bring him and those that succeed him to justice has commenced, but the court has been adjourned till 24th November. Turkish prosecutors have accused Saud-al-qahtni and Ahmad Asiri (Saudi Arabia's former deputy intelligence chief) of instigating "premeditated murder with monstrous intent", adding that Qahtni led the operation.
Eighteen defendants have been charged with carrying out "a premeditated murder with the intent of [causing] torment through fiendish instincts". The request to have them extradited to Turkey has been rejected, raising questions about the trials legality. Another such factor is that these men have been assigned Turkish lawyers.
The indictment names fifty-four witnesses, including twenty-six Turkish staff members of the consulate as well as the consul’s residence- drivers, clerks, translators, cooks, cleaners and a tea server.
New evidence and witness statements:
The adviser to Erdogan that Cengiz contacted has said that al-Qahtani had communicated with Mr. Khashoggi on WhatsApp and told him that he needed to stop talking and return to Saudi Arabia.
Other notable evidence is the testimony of Zeki Demir, a handyman at the consulate, who says that he was called to the Consul’s home on the day of the incident and was asked to light up the tandoor oven. He further adds "There were five to six people there," and that "There was an air of panic... It was as if they wanted me to leave as soon as possible." He reported seeing many skewers of meat and a small barbecue in addition to the oven in the Consul's garden. Marble slabs around the oven appeared to have changed colour as if they had been cleaned with a chemical, the indictment reported him as saying.
Separate witness testimony in the indictment from the Consul's driver said that the Consul had ordered raw kebabs from a local restaurant.
Seven other Turkish witnesses who worked at the consulate also took the stand. Several workers said that they were ordered not to go to the Consul’s residence that day.
Ms. Callamard said that she hoped the trial would reveal what investigators had found in Mr. Khashoggi’s cellphone and computer, and whether the devices had been hacked, which would indicate intent to do him harm.
Turkey has come under fire various times for infringing defendants’ rights and having a non-independent system. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia has been creating as many issues and barriers as they can to protect MBS as well as the suspects. The power dynamic between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, has led to Turkey strategically releasing information and there is no doubt that the government will put in their best effort to prevent the implication of MBS so that they can maintain decent relations. It feels as though Khashoggi was part of something bigger, what it could be still puzzles the World. Although, the sad fact is that the truth will probably never be learnt unless found and exposed by a stateless source. If one is looking for an optimistic case with a happy ending, then they must attach hopes to another case because this isn’t that story.
Reporter: Katyayani Nath