FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 2, 2018 file photo, a video image of Hatice Cengiz, fiancee of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is played during an event to remember Khashoggi, who was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 2, 2018 file photo, a video image of Hatice Cengiz, fiancee of slain Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, is played during an event to remember Khashoggi, who was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

Saudi prosecutor seeks death penalty in Khashoggi’s killing

Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor is recommending the death penalty for five suspects charged with ordering and carrying out the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor said Thursday he’s seeking the death penalty for five suspects charged with ordering and carrying out the killing of dissident Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

The disclosures by the prosecution appear aimed at distancing the killers and their operation from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whose decision-making powers have thrust him into the centre of a global outcry over the killing.

Chief Saudi prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb’s decision to seek the death penalty before trial is not unusual in Saudi Arabia.

Facing mounting international pressure, prosecutors also pointed the finger at two men who were part of the crown prince’s inner circle, but stopped short of accusing them of ordering a hit on Khashoggi. The two are instead being accused of ordering Khashoggi’s forced return in an operation the Saudis allege went awry.

In a press conference later Thursday, Sheikh Shalan al-Shalan, spokesman and deputy attorney-general, said the Oct. 2 killing was ordered by one man: the individual responsible for the negotiating team sent to forcibly bring Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia.

He did not disclose that individual’s name, but said he was part of a 15-man team sent to Turkey comprised of three groups: negotiators, intelligence and logistics.

He said that on the morning of the killing, the leader of the negotiating team saw that he would not be able to force Khashoggi to return “so he decided to kill him in the moment.”

This appears to contradict a previous Saudi statement quoting Turkish intelligence saying the killing had been premeditated.

Al-Shalan said that Khashoggi’s killers had set in motion plans for the operation on Sept. 29 — three days before his slaying in Istanbul. He says the killers drugged and killed the writer inside the consulate, before dismembering the body and handing it over for disposal by an unidentified local collaborator. The body has never been found.

The brutal death of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who had been critical of the crown prince, has sent shock waves around the world and led analysts and officials to believe a sensitive operation of this magnitude could not have been carried out without the prince’s knowledge.

Read more: Canada stands pat on Saudi arms sales, even after hearing Khashoggi tape

Read more: Turkey to Saudi Arabia: Where is Khashoggi’s body?

The latest Saudi account of what took place failed to appease officials in Turkey, who insist the killing and its coverup were carried out by the highest levels of government.

“We did not find some of his explanations to be satisfactory,” Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said after the Saudi announcement.

“Those who gave the order, the real perpetrators need to be revealed. This process cannot be closed down in this way,” he added.

Through a series of orchestrated leaks, including audio of the killing shared with Western intelligence, Turkey has attempted to keep pressure on the crown prince, who sees Turkey as a regional rival.

Turkey alleges that among those sent to Istanbul was a forensics expert.

In an apparent reference this specialist, al-Shalan said the organizer of the operation — who was not named — called on a specialist to be part of the team to erase evidence if Khashoggi needed to be forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia. Prosecutors said this specialist was working without the direct knowledge of his boss.

Saudi Arabia said 21 people are now in custody, with 11 indicted and referred to trial. The Turkish government is demanding the suspects be investigated and put on trial in Turkey.

Among the high-level officials incriminated in connection with the killing is former deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri, who was fired in the immediate aftermath of the killing.

Al-Assiri, believed to have been a close confidant of Prince Mohammed, and former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani are accused of planning and ordering Khashoggi’s forced return to Saudi Arabia. Prosecutors say the men formed a 15-man Saudi team to carry out the operation.

Saudi prosecutors said the men deemed Khashoggi a threat because of his work as a writer and because he was allegedly backed by groups and countries that are hostile to Saudi Arabia.

However, Saudi prosecutors stopped short of accusing al-Assiri or al-Qahtani of ordering the killing itself — further distancing the killers from the crown prince’s inner circle and bolstering Saudi assertions that the killing was carried out by rogue agents who exceeded their authority. Both men were fired from their posts last month amid fallout from the killing.

Khashoggi had been living in self-imposed exile abroad for nearly a year before he was killed by Saudi agents at the consulate on Oct. 2. In his writing, he was especially critical of the crown prince, who’d been leading a wide-reaching crackdown on activists and critics inside the kingdom since last year.

Khashoggi had gone to the consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage. His Turkish fiancee waited outside and first raised the alarm about his disappearance.

___

Aya Batrawy, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

LEFT: Krista Macinnis, with a red handprint across her face that symbolizes the silencing of First Nations people, displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
RIGHT: Abbotsford School District Kevin Godden says the district takes responsibility for the harm the assignment caused.
Abbotsford school district must make amends for harmful residential school assignment: superintendent

‘The first step is to unreservedly apologize for the harm … caused to our community’: Kevin Godden

Chilliwack School District school bus outside Sardis elementary on June 11, 2014. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
COVID-19 exposures on three school buses in Chilliwack

Exposure dates range from Nov. 13 to 19, according to letters sent out by Fraser Health

File photo
Outdoor recreation generates close to $1 billion annually in Fraser Valley: report

Camping, hiking and sportfishing generate the most spending, report finds

Chief Robert Gladstone of Shxwha:y Village at a federal flood funding announcement April 24, 2019. (Jenna Hauck/Chilliwack Progress file)
Consortium of Indigenous chiefs seeking a way to participate in cannabis economy

All Nations Chiefs from the Shxwha:y, Cheam, Soowahlie and Sq’ewlets holding online forum Dec. 2

The Santa Photos event will not continue at Highstreet Shopping Centre after Fraser Health asked organizers to suspend the event after new restrictions. (Highstreet photo)
Santa Photos at Abbotsford’s Highstreet Shopping Centre event suspended

Fraser Health Authority asked Highstreet to suspend event following new restrictions

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

Elissa McLaren broke her left elbow in the Sept. 20, 2020 collision. (Submitted)
Surviving victims of fatal crash in Fraser Valley asking for help leading up to Christmas

‘This accident has taken a larger toll financially, mentally and physically than originally intended’

Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld (left) and former BCTF president Glen Hansman (right).
BC Court of Appeal left to walk tightrope of freedom of expression in Neufeld-Hansman case

Is defamation lawsuit aimed at stifling free expression or does the defamation hinder free speech?

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Most Read