TORTURE, MURDER CAUGHT ON TAPE
Turkish officials make grisly claim in disappearance
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.