Special UN human rights investigator, heading the inquiry into the killing of Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi said that early evidence showed he was a victim of “a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the state of Saudi Arabia”.
Khashoggi was a Washington Post columnist and a critic of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman. He was killed on October 2 after he entered the Istanbul Saudi consulate to collect documents regarding his marriage to his Turkish fiancee.
According to U.S intelligence agencies, Khashoggi’s killing was reportedly ordered by the Crown Prince. His body has not yet been found.
Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard said on Thursday her three-member team had access to part of “chilling and gruesome audio material” of the murder obtained by Turkish intelligence agencies.
A UN statement issued regarding the investigation said that the monarchial regime ‘seriously undermined’ Turkey’s efforts to investigate Khashoggi’s killing at its Istanbul consulate.
“Woefully inadequate time and access was granted to Turkish investigators to conduct a professional and effective crime-scene examination and search required by international standards for investigation,” Callamard said.
She said that she requested access to Saudi Arabia, following a week-long mission with her team of three experts to Turkey.
She stated that she had ‘major concerns’ about the fairness of proceedings for 11 people currently facing trial in the kingdom over Khashoggi’s killing. She is expected to present a final report to the UN Human Rights Council in June.
On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Riyadh was trying to contest an element of a CIA assessment that concluded MBS likely ordered the killing.
A confidential report prepared by Kroll, a large private security firm, for the Saudi public prosecutor found that none of the WhatsApp messages exchanged between Prince Mohammed and his top aide, Saud al-Qahtani, on the day of the murder concerned Khashoggi, the WSJ quoted the draft document as saying.
“The existence of those messages between the Saudi prince and Mr Qahtani – who oversaw the team that killed Mr Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, according to people familiar with his work – was one piece of evidence cited in the highly classified CIA assessment,” the WSJ reported.
Moreover, the New York Times, citing current and former American and foreign officials with direct knowledge of intelligence reports, reported on Thursday that a year before killing, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman and told a top aide in conversation that if Khashoggi did not return to the kingdom and end his criticism of the Saudi government, he would use ‘a bullet’ on him.
The conversation appears to have been recently transcribed and analyzed as part of an effort by intelligence agencies to find proof of who was responsible for Mr. Khashoggi’s death. The National Security Agency and other American spy agencies are now sifting through years of the crown prince’s voice and text communications that the N.S.A. routinely intercepted and stored, much as the agency has long done for other top foreign officials, including close allies of the United States, the report stated.
(With inputs from Al-Jazeera)