A year before his grisly murder, Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi sent a series of WhatsApp messages expressing sharp criticism of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. CNN reports that the slain columnist sent more than 400 texts using the app to fellow Saudi exile Omar Abdulaziz discussing the prince’s state of mind and planning support for a movement against Saudi authorities.
In the messages, he calls the crown prince a “beast” and says that bin Salman is relentless in his attempts to silence critics. In May, after a group of female activists were arrested, he sent a message to the Montreal-based Abdulaziz saying that the arrests were unjustified and that the prince will even turn on those who support him.
“Arrests are unjustified and do not serve him (logic says), but tyranny has no logic, but he loves force, oppression and needs to show them off. He is like a beast ‘pac man’ the more victims he eats, the more he wants,” he wrote.
“I will not be surprised that the oppression will reach even those who are cheering him, then others and others and so on.”
After the exchange, Abdulaziz and Khashoggi began turning their concerns into action. The pair discussed plans to support a youth movement meant to counter the Saudi state-run propaganda machine in August, just months before Khashoggi was killed. The movement would involve sending dissidents anonymous SIM cards for their phones so they could communicate without being tracked. The other part of the initiative that the pair discussed was to pledge financial support.
It’s these messages that Abdulaziz believes may have gotten Khashoggi killed. He said that he believes their communication was intercepted by Saudi authorities. Communication of this type is considered treason in Saudi Arabia, which is why they turned to WhatsApp and other encrypted platforms to contact one another.
“The hacking of my phone played a major role in what happened to Jamal, I am really sorry to say,” the 27-year-old Abdelaziz said. “The guilt is killing me,” he added.
Abdulaziz filed a lawsuit against an Israeli company that he believes created software that allowed his messages to be accessed. It’s likely that the same technology used to intercept the activist’s messages was also used to hack communication from Yahya Assiri and also an Amnesty International staff member.
It was also revealed that Mohammed bin Salman communicated repeatedly with the individual who oversaw Khashoggi’s murder. The CIA found evidence that the crown prince sent at least 11 texts spanning a year when the murder was allegedly first planned.