By Prarthana Mitra
After a maddening week of outright and strenuous denial of knowing about missing US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s whereabouts, Saudi Arabia on Friday attested to the fact that The Post columnist had died inside its consulate in Istanbul.
Following the international outcry and fearing strained relations with the west regarding Khashoggi’s disappearance and (later confirmed) death, Saudi government reportedly fired two officials including royal court advisor Saud al-Qahtani and deputy intelligence chief Ahmed Asiri. The crown prince categorically denied having any knowledge of the operation that led to Khashoggi’s death, a Saudi official familiar with the investigation told Reuters. “MbS had no knowledge of this specific operation and certainly did not order a kidnapping or murder of anybody,” the anonymous official added.
In a separate statement, Saudi public prosecutor claimed that the death was a result of an altercation between Khashoggi and the people who met him in the consulate, leading to his death. “The investigations are still underway and 18 Saudi nationals have been arrested,” the statement said. According to official sources, the king who had handed over governance to his son, the crown prince, has intervened in the wake of this fiasco, ordering for the formation of a ministerial committee to restructure the general intelligence agency.
Here’s what happened so far
After Turkish media on Tuesday reported the existence of audio recordings from within the Saudi consulate suggesting that Khashoggi had been ambushed and later tortured to death by a 15-man Saudi security team, US media erupted in anger, demanding due justice for their prized reporter, a vocal dissident of Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s internal and foreign policies. Turkish officials later reported that the entire operation was carried out by trained forensic specialists and post-mortem experts, as precise gruesome details of beheading and dismemberment seemed to have emerged from the tapes.
How has the US responded?
Notwithstanding the evidence to suggest that Khashoggi’s murder was premeditated and orchestrated by the Saudi government, Trump let Salman’s authorities conduct their independent probe and decided to withhold his verdict until then. After taking stock of the Saudi narrative, the White House released a statement saying it would continue to press for “justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process.”
The US is not keen on severing a key alliance with Saudi Arabia, especially in light of Riyadh`s role in countering Iranian influence in the Middle East, lucrative potential arms deals and priceless oil resource for American industries. But after Friday’s revelations, several Republican lawmakers are sceptical about letting Saudi Arabia off the hook after such a brutal attack on free press and one of their own journalists. Some Democratic leaders have found the latest account lacking in credibility and called for an international investigation into Khashoggi’s death. When asked about the possibility of sanctions on Saudi Arabia, Trump mused, “We`re going to find out who knew what when and where. And we`ll figure it out.”
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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