By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) – “I can't breathe ” were the final words of a Washington Post columnist who was killed at the hands of Saudi agents in Riyadh's Istanbul consulate, according to a report released Sunday.
CNN reported Jamal Khashoggi's final words citing a source who was briefed on his killing. That source, CNN said, had read a translated transcript of Khashoggi's Oct. 2 killing.
The unnamed individual insisted that the killing was not consistent with Khashoggi having been killed as a result of a botched rendition operation — the explanation Saudi Arabia settled on after offering various narratives surrounding his disappearance.
The source said Khashoggi struggled to overcome a group of people in the consulate who were determined to kill him.
“I can't breathe, ” Khashoggi said.
“I can't breathe. ”
“I can't breathe. ”
Khashoggi, a Saudi national and U.S. resident, had gone to the Saudi diplomatic building in Istanbul to pick up papers that would have allowed him to marry his Turkish fiancee. But the source said the transcript indicates that he knew almost immediately after entering that things were amiss, recognizing one of the men who meets him inside.
“You are coming back, ” the man says.
“You can't do that, ” Khashoggi replies. “People are waiting outside. ”
He was likely referring to Hatice Cengiz, his fiancee who was waiting nearby with instructions to call friends if he did not emerge.
The source said the transcript includes mention of the saw the Saudi agents were using to dismember Khashoggi's body while the perpetrators were told to listen to music to avoid the sounds of human dismemberment.
After Khashoggi said he can't breathe the transcript notes additional screams and mention of “saw ” and “cutting. ”
Dr. Salah Muhammad al-Tubaiqi is one of the Saudis identified on the transcript by Turkish authorities.
Al-Tubaiqi is the head of forensic medicine at the Saudi interior ministry. He allegedly tells the group of individuals to put in earphones “or listen to music like me ” to avoid the macabre task they have set upon.
The release of the new information comes as U.S. President Donald Trump and his senior officials continue to distance Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from Khashoggi's murder despite bipartisan congressional calls for the Saudi leader to be held to account.
Trump had dismissed the CIA's assessment that bin Salman personally had Khashoggi killed.
The office of a U.S. senator who was briefed on the agency's findings by Director Gina Haspel said the account given to CNN was consistent with the briefing, the news network said.
Besides al-Tubaiqi and Khashoggi the transcript only explicitly mentions Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a former diplomat and current intelligence official close to bin Salman.
Mutreb placed numerous calls to an individual in Riyadh who remains unknown. But he was giving almost a play-by-play of what was transpiring inside the diplomatic building to whoever was on the other end of the call.
But CNN said the “working assumption ” is that Mutreb was speaking to Saud al-Qahtani, bin Salman's closest aide.
A source close to Saudi Arabia's investigation into Khashoggi's killing said Mutreb and al-Tubaiqi deny making any calls.
Both of the individuals were previously reported to have been part of a Saudi “hit team ” sent to Turkey to kill Khashoggi.