Journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was “premeditated,” Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor has said.
This is a direct admission of Khashoggi’s murder being planned in advance, in contrast to the inconsistent narratives espoused by Saudi Arabia in the days after the disappearance of the Saudi defector and Washington Post columnist. The journalist went missing on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to collect some paperwork, and while Saudi Arabia initially claimed innocence about his whereabouts, Turkey’s evidence and increasing international media pressure seem to have cornered the Middle Eastern nation into admitting guilt.
According to BBC, Saudi Arabia’s state TV announced that the conclusion of the murder being “premeditated” was reached after a joint task force, including Turkish and Saudi officials, found evidence of the same. This flies in the face of the earlier Saudi admission of the murder resulting from a “fist-fight” or a plan gone awry. There appears to be concrete evidence proving that was not the case, leaving Saudi Arabia with no option but to admit to the murder. Even so, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman remains insulated from any direct charges.
On Wednesday, a day after he conducted photo ops with Jamal Khashoggi’s eldest son, who is banned from leaving Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman vowed to reach the bottom of the investigation and punish the guilty.
BREAKING: CIA Director Gina Haspel flies to Turkey amid ballooning Khashoggi controversy. US spies are increasingly skeptical of the Saudi account and have told Trump the "rogue killers" theory is dubious, a WH official says. Me w/ @shaneharris @jdawsey1 https://t.co/4BcKoiInAB
— John Hudson (@John_Hudson) October 22, 2018
Saudi Arabia’s admission of the plan being “premeditated” is in part a response to U.S. intelligence agencies informing Donald Trump that their “rogue” killing defense appears increasingly dubious. CIA chief Gina Haspel is now reported to have heard the audio recording in possession of Turkish authorities, which has screams and proof of torture and dismemberment of Khashoggi’s body and is flying back to the United States to brief the president on Thursday. It was the details of this recording that had steadily been making its way to Turkish media, and while Turkey would still not confirm how it obtained the recording, its veracity appears credible.
“This puts the ball firmly in Washington’s court,” Bruce Riedel, a former CIA official and scholar at the Brookings Institution, told the Washington Post.
“Not only will there be more pressure now from the media but Congress will say, ‘Gina, we would love to have you come visit and you can tell us exactly what you heard.'”
Haspel’s own previous record of being involved in a CIA torture programme in Uzbekistan could muddy the waters, but her testimony on the matter could well decide America’s next course of action.