Khashoggi’s death is ex­plained by the Saudis in five acts (and count­ing)

Sunday Trust - - FOREIGN FEATURE - Source:www.ny­

He was some­where on the streets of Is­tan­bul, un­til he wasn’t. He was dead in a fist­fight, un­til he wasn’t. From the mo­ment the dis­si­dent jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi dis­ap­peared af­ter walk­ing into the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul this month, Saudi of­fi­cials have of­fered a dizzy­ing va­ri­ety of pub­lic ac­counts about his fate. Here’s how the Saudi govern­ment has changed its story.

Oct. 3: Mr. Khashoggi left the con­sulate, and we have no idea where he is.

That was the con­tention of the Saudi crown prince, Mo­hammed bin Sal­man, in an in­ter­view with Bloomberg re­porters, the day af­ter Mr. Khashoggi walked into the Saudi con­sulate in Is­tan­bul for a mar­riage doc­u­ment and van­ished.

“My un­der­stand­ing is he en­tered and he got out af­ter a few min­utes or one hour,” Prince Mo­hammed said, later adding, “We have noth­ing to hide.”

Saudi of­fi­cials went so far as to give Reuters jour­nal­ists a tour of the con­sulate, open­ing up cup­boards, fil­ing cab­i­nets and pan­els over air con­di­tion­ing units to prove he wasn’t there. They pro­fessed to be wor­riedly search­ing for him.

Oct. 15: The sup­posed hit squad was ac­tu­ally a group of tourists.

Af­ter Turk­ish of­fi­cials put out word through news me­dia out­lets that a 15-per­son team of Saudis had killed Mr. Khashoggi, a Sau­diowned satel­lite news chan­nel of­fered up an in­no­cent ex­pla­na­tion. They were only tourists, the news chan­nel, Al Ara­biya, said, and had been falsely ac­cused of in­volve­ment in the dis­si­dent jour­nal­ist’s dis­ap­pear­ance.

Also on Oct. 15: ‘Rogue killers’ lashed out dur­ing an in­ter­ro­ga­tion gone wrong.

With in­ter­na­tional furor over Mr. Khashoggi’s fate grow­ing, the Saudis started to float the nar­ra­tive that Mr. Khashoggi was in fact dead, as much of the world sus­pected, but at the hands of “rogue killers.”

That ac­count was ini­tially backed up by Pres­i­dent Trump, fol­low­ing a phone call with King Sal­man of Saudi Ara­bia: “It sounded to me like maybe th­ese could have been rogue killers - who knows,” the pres­i­dent said.

A per­son fa­mil­iar with the Saudi govern­ment’s plans then said that a Saudi in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial who was a friend of the crown prince or­dered the in­ter­ro­ga­tion, and that Prince Mo­hammed had ap­proved it, but that the in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cial went too far.

Oct. 20: Mr. Khashoggi was stran­gled dur­ing a fist­fight.

Mr. Khashoggi got into a tus­sle in the Saudi Con­sulate when he tried to es­cape from men try­ing to force him to re­turn to his home coun­try, Saudi of­fi­cials said on Oct. 20.

Saudi Ara­bia ar­rested the 15 men sent to con­front Mr. Khashoggi, and dis­missed a close aide to the crown prince and Maj. Gen. Ahmed al-As­siri, the deputy di­rec­tor of Saudi in­tel­li­gence, who the govern­ment said or­ga­nized the oper­a­tion.

A Saudi of­fi­cial said the goal had been to re­turn dis­si­dents liv­ing abroad, but the or­der had been mis­in­ter­preted as it made its way down the chain of com­mand. A con­fronta­tion erupted when Mr. Khashoggi saw his cap­tors, the of­fi­cial said: The men stopped him from flee­ing, punches were thrown, Mr. Khashoggi screamed and one of the men put him in a choke­hold, stran­gling him to death.

Oct. 25: The killing may have been ‘pre­med­i­tated.’

Saudi Ara­bia’s pub­lic prosecutor said on Thurs­day that Turkey had given Saudi of­fi­cials new in­for­ma­tion in the course of a joint Saudi-Turk­ish in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

But the prosecutor said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was con­tin­u­ing, mak­ing it un­clear whether Saudi Ara­bia it­self had con­cluded that the killing was pre­med­i­tated.

The new shift in the Saudi ac­count co­in­cided with a visit to Turkey by Gina Haspel, the di­rec­tor of the C.I.A., who was ex­pected to gain ac­cess to an au­dio record­ing and other ev­i­dence that Turkey says proves Mr. Khashoggi was as­sas­si­nated on orders from the up­per lev­els of the Saudi royal fam­ily.

The late Ja­mal Khashoggi

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