After teasing that a statement would be released for days, Saudi Arabia finally acknowledged that Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead, and that he did die on October 2, 2018. This is the day that he walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
He did not walk back out. Khashoggi went missing when he entered the consulate, and in the ensuing investigation, Saudi Arabia first said that he walked safely out of a back door of the building unharmed. As more evidence came forward to suggest that Khashoggi was actually killed inside the consulate, the Saudi royal government changed its story again.
Next, they said that perhaps Khashoggi was killed by rogue agents working outside the government. It was widely reported that Saudi Arabia planned to release a statement saying that Khashoggi was killed in an interrogation gone wrong.
Saudi Arabia released their statement on Friday afternoon — and it tells yet another story.
According to the statement broadcast on Saudi state media, a fight broke out inside the consulate building between Jamal Khashoggi and the people who met him inside, the BBC reports. This ultimately led to Khashoggi’s death.
“Investigations are still under way and 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested,” the official statement said.
According to their statement, a 59-year-old writer walked into a building in an attempt to get paperwork so he could get married. While there, he engaged in a physical fight to the death with upwards of 18 people.
And there are a lot of questions that automatically spring to mind with that.
Khashoggi had been living in the U.S., in exile after being threatened by the Saudi government, of which he was critical of in several articles.
Turkish officials have offered photos and other evidence to support their claim that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate by a team of 15 people who arrived and left Istanbul on October 2, the day the journalist went missing. Among these men were several members of the royal guard assigned to the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman.
Twitter reactions to the statement have been skeptical.
If you believe that Jamal Khashoggi is dead because 18 Saudis who were brought in as trained killers got in a fight with him at the consulate as he was getting a marriage certificate then you are an idiot… sorry.
Why the hell would you chop the body into pieces?
— Brian Krassenstein (@krassenstein) October 19, 2018
So let me get this straight: the Saudis, who originally denied everything, just acknowledged that Khashoggi was, indeed, killed during a “fist fight” in their embassy?
This is the cover story they came up with after 17 days!?!
— David Axelrod (@davidaxelrod) October 19, 2018
Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls for "prompt, thorough, transparent" probe into the circumstances of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death and urges full accountability for those involved, according to UN statement pic.twitter.com/2Y2iPRMG4K
— CGTN (@CGTNOfficial) October 20, 2018
The statement doesn’t answer to most of the evidence Turkish officials have stated they have. It doesn’t answer the question of where Khashoggi’s body is, or why it took so long for Saudi Arabia to release this statement if a fight is truly what happened. It doesn’t explain why Khashoggi’s body was reportedly mutilated, nor does it explain why the Saudi government initially stated that Khashoggi left the consulate safely.
It also doesn’t explain the audio recording that Turkey has claimed it has, audio in which Khashoggi is being interrogated and then murdered. Turkish media has reported on this audio recording, and reportedly U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has heard it.
“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia expresses deep regret at the painful developments that have taken place in this case and affirms the commitment of the authorities in the Kingdom to bring the facts to the attention of the public and to hold accountable all those involved,” the statement says, according to CNN.