Jour­nal­ist’s death cap­tured on au­dio, video: of­fi­cials

Turk­ish of­fi­cials make grisly claim in dis­ap­pear­ance

Montreal Gazette - - NEWS - Ishaan Tha­roor

The mys­tery sur­round­ing Ja­mal Khashoggi has turned even more dark. The Saudi jour­nal­ist van­ished Oct. 2 af­ter en­ter­ing the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul. Within days, leaks from Turk­ish of­fi­cials sug­gested Khashoggi had been killed by Saudi agents flown in to take out the writer. The Saudis have de­nied the ac­cu­sa­tion, say­ing Khashoggi left the con­sulate on his own — but have pro­vided no ev­i­dence to back up their claim.

On Wed­nes­day night, my col­leagues re­ported that none other than Saudi Crown Prince Mo­hammed bin Sal­man or­dered an op­er­a­tion to lure Khashoggi, a prom­i­nent writer and Washington Post con­trib­u­tor, from his de facto ex­ile in Vir­ginia and de­tain him, ac­cord­ing to U.S. in­tel­li­gence in­ter­cepts.

“The in­tel­li­gence point­ing to a plan to de­tain Khashoggi in Saudi Ara­bia has fu­elled spec­u­la­tion by of­fi­cials and an­a­lysts in mul­ti­ple coun­tries that what tran­spired at the con­sulate was a backup plan to cap­ture Khashoggi that may have gone wrong,” wrote Post na­tional se­cu­rity re­porter Shane Har­ris.

On Thurs­day, my col­leagues re­ported that Turk­ish of­fi­cials told their U.S. coun­ter­parts that they had au­dio and video ev­i­dence ap­par­ently con­firm­ing their con­clu­sion that Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi con­sulate.

The record­ings show that a Saudi se­cu­rity team de­tained Khashoggi in the con­sulate af­ter he walked in, then killed him and dis­mem­bered his body, The Washington Post was told by U.S. and Turk­ish of­fi­cials.

“The voice record­ing from in­side the em­bassy lays out what hap­pened to Ja­mal af­ter he en­tered,” said one per­son with knowl­edge of the record­ing who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity. “You can hear his voice and the voices of men speak­ing Ara­bic. You can hear how he was in­ter­ro­gated, tor­tured and then mur­dered.”

A sec­ond per­son briefed on the record­ing said men could be heard beat­ing Khashoggi.

One of the 15 Saudis named by Turk­ish of­fi­cials as be­ing in­volved in the dis­ap­pear­ance is a foren­sic ex­pert known for pi­o­neer­ing rapid and mo­bile au­top­sies, ac­cord­ing to Arab me­dia re­ports and his own aca­demic writ­ings. Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy flew into Is­tan­bul shortly af­ter Khashoggi en­tered the con­sulate and flew out nine hours later, Turk­ish of­fi­cials say.

The al­leged pres­ence of Tubaigy, who has taught and pub­lished pa­pers on gath­er­ing DNA ev­i­dence and dis­sect­ing hu­man bod­ies, am­pli­fies the ma­cabre nar­ra­tive put forth by Turk­ish in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

The news has gone off like a bomb in the U.S. cap­i­tal, where Riyadh has long cur­ried favour through an ex­ten­sive ecosys­tem of lob­by­ists, wonks and politi­cians. In the space of a week, Khashoggi’s dis­ap­pear­ance has stirred the sort of col­lec­tive ire against Saudi Ara­bia that years of Saudi-led bomb­ing in Ye­men could not.

Repub­li­can Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham warned that “there would be hell to pay” if the al­le­ga­tions of Saudi malfea­sance were con­firmed. “I’ve never been more dis­turbed than I am right now,” said Gra­ham, a mem­ber of the Se­nate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee. “If this man was mur­dered in the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul, that would cross ev­ery line of nor­mal­ity in the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.”

An­a­lysts be­moaned the White House’s seem­ing dis­in­ter­est in the al­leged as­sas­si­na­tion. “It sym­bol­izes the de­par­ture of the United States as a re­strain­ing force against evil ac­tors in the world,” wrote Robert Ka­gan in a col­umn for The Post. “Saudi Ara­bia is a small na­tion that can­not de­fend it­self with­out the sup­port of the United States, and there­fore no Saudi leader would have made such a brazen move with­out con­fi­dence that Washington, once the leader of the lib­eral world or­der, would do noth­ing.”

In­deed, Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has done lit­tle to sug­gest that ev­i­dence of Saudi mis­be­haviour would com­pel him to dis­rupt his close re­la­tion­ship with the king­dom. In mul­ti­ple in­ter­views since Khashoggi’s dis­ap­pear­ance, he has stressed the im­por­tance of pre­serv­ing over US$100 bil­lion in arms sales to the Saudis.

“I think that would be hurt­ing us,” Trump told Fox News on Wed­nes­day. “Frankly, I think that would be a very, very tough pill to swal­low for our coun­try.”

The fol­low­ing day, Trump waved away the in­ci­dent as some­thing in­volv­ing a Saudi cit­i­zen, and so was not any of Washington’s busi­ness — never mind that Khashoggi was a U.S. res­i­dent writ­ing for an Amer­i­can news­pa­per.

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