Jamal Khashoggi killing: USA sanctions 17 Saudis; 5 face death penalty

Saul Bowman
November 16, 2018

He said 11 of 21 suspects have been indicted and will be referred to court, while investigations of the remaining suspects will continue.

Prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb's conclusion - that the killing was authorised by relatively low-level officials who disobeyed orders and acted on the fly - contradicted assertions by Turkish investigators, who have said it was a meticulously planned affair, with elaborate preparations to cover up the crime that included the scouting of locations where Khashoggi's body could be disposed of in secret.

The U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on 17 Saudi officials on Thursday for their role in the killing last month of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, the first concrete response by the Trump administration to the journalist's death.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Turkey has indirectly accused of ordering Khashoggi's death. It said authorities would seek the death penalty against five of those indicted.

The list does, however, include the crown prince's propaganda chief, Saud al-Qahtani, who has sometimes been described as the Saudi "Steve Bannon", as well as Maher Mutreb, whom the Treasury Department described as Qahtani's subordinate who coordinated the Khashoggi assassination. Zayani said the statement by the Saudi Public Prosecution confirms the Kingdom's keenness to investigate away from politicization. He says the head of the negotiating team knew Khashoggi and ordered the reporter be taken to a secure place. "The necessary equipment and people were previously brought in to kill and later dismember him". In an audio recording of Khashoggi's murder, Mutreb could be heard telling an aide of the crown prince to "tell your boss" after the killing, the New York Times reported earlier this week.

The financial penalties announced by the US aren't expected to directly affect the crown prince, who critics say must have given at least tacit approval for some of his aides to plan Khashoggi's murder.

Khashoggi had gone to the consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage. Gen Assiri and Mr Qahtani have also been sacked over the incident.


Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the measures announced by Saudi Arabia were "positive but insufficient", and repeated Ankara's demand that the 15-man team be tried in Turkey.

Commencement of this process demonstrates the resolve and commitment of the Saudi authorities to hold the culprits and their associates to account and fulfill the imperatives of justice, as has been mutually reaffirmed by both Saudi Arabia and Turkey, said a statement issued by the Foreign Office.

"I don't believe the real perpetrators will be found through Saudi Arabia's investigation", Yasin Aktay said. The team included a forensic expert "for the goal of removing evidence from the scene in case force had to be used to return the victim", according to a summary of the prosecutor's statement that was emailed to reporters.

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 made a decision to kill him in the moment".

Turkey's prosecutor said late last month that Khashoggi was strangled or suffocated as soon as he entered the consulate, in line with "premeditated plans". But in recent weeks, he's also said he didn't believe Saudi leaders had betrayed him in the case and reiterated he believes it would be foolish for the U.S.to cancel arms deals with the country because it might hurt U.S.jobs.

"After the murder, the victim's body was dismembered by the individuals that had committed the murder and was transferred outside the consulate building", it went on.

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