Washington Post slams Riyadh's new Khashoggi account

By Servet Gunerigok

WASHINGTON (AA) – The Washington Post called "shocking in its audacity" Saudi Arabia’s new narrative Thursday on the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Previously, the Kingdom said Khashoggi was killed in a "premeditated" operation and later acknowledged he was killed after he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul by a hit team sent to return him to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi chief prosecutor's office said 11 suspects had been indicted and the death penalty was being sought for five of them.

The office distanced Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from the murder as well as his two aides alleged to have ordered the operation.

In a statement, Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor Shalaan al-Shalaan said an operation was ordered either to persuade or force Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia.

Ahmed al-Assiri, a former deputy head of intelligence, issued an order for Khashoggi’s return Sept. 29, a day after the journalist's first visit to the consulate building.

It was al-Assiri who formed a 15-member team, according to the prosecutor. He contacted a forensics expert to join it for the purpose of removing evidence from the scene in the event force had to be used.

"After surveilling the consulate, the head of the team concluded that it would not be possible to transfer the victim by force … so the head of the team decided on murder," said the prosecutor.

"By offering up this incredible account, the Saudi regime is baldly defying all those, including leading members of [the U.S.] Congress, who called for full disclosure and accountability," wrote the Post's editorial board.

Washington imposed sanctions on 17 individuals in connection with the murder, but the board said neither the crown prince nor Riyadh's top intelligence officials were among them.

The Post said the new Saudi account revealed the operation was ordered by then-deputy chief of intelligence Ahmed al-Assiri and advised by Saud al-Qahtani, a court propagandist, who it said is close to bin Salman.

Riyad did not say the two aides were complicit in the decision to kill Khashoggi and were fooled by their team’s claim that the journalist left the consulate alive.

"That doesn’t explain a portion of the audio recording reported by the New York Times, in which Maher Mutreb, a close associate of the crown prince, instructs an official by phone to 'tell your boss' that the mission was accomplished," it wrote.

U.S. intelligence officials believe the “boss” is "almost certainly Prince Mohammed."

The newspaper also urged Congress not to allow "this travesty" to continue.

"It should suspend all military sales and cooperation with Saudi Arabia until a credible international investigation of the Khashoggi killing is completed," it said.

The cover story, it added, is just one "more instance of Mohammed bin Salman’s arrogant and reckless behavior.

"The true murderers of Jamal Khashoggi must be named and punished," said the board.

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