Saudi Arabia Now Says Khashoggi Murder 'Premeditated'

Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said on Thursday the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate this month was premeditated.

The death of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of de facto Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has sparked global outrage and mushroomed into a crisis for the world’s top oil exporter and strategic ally of the West.

The Saudi disclosure came after CIA director Gina Haspel heard an audio recording of the killing during a fact-finding visit to Turkey this week. The spy chief was due to brief President Donald Trump about Khashoggi on Thursday.

Turkish forensic police work in a room inside the Saudi Arabian consulate general residence as investigations continue into the disappearance Jamal Khashoggi on October 17, 2018 (Image: Getty)

Saudi officials initially denied having anything to do with Khashoggi’s disappearance after he entered the consulate on Oct. 2, before changing the official account to say an internal investigation suggested he was accidentally killed in a botched operation to return him to the kingdom.

On Thursday, Saudi state TV quoted the Saudi public prosecutor as saying the killing was premeditated, and that prosecutors were interrogating suspects on the basis of information provided by a joint Saudi-Turkish task force.

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“Information from the Turkish side affirms that the suspects in Khashoggi’s case premeditated their crime,” said the statement carried by state TV.

Turkey and Western allies of Riyadh have voiced deep scepticism about Saudi explanations of the killing.

Representatives of NGOs stage a demonstration on the disappearance of Prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in front of the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul, Turkey on October 08, 2018. (Image: Getty Images)

Turkish officials suspect Khashoggi, 59, was killed inside the consulate by Saudi agents and his body cut up. Turkish sources say authorities have an audio recording purportedly documenting the murder.

Pro-government Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak, citing the audio, has said his torturers cut off his fingers during an interrogation and later beheaded him.

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The CIA’s Haspel heard an audio recording of Khashoggi’s death during a trip to Turkey this week, sources told Reuters. It was not clear what could be heard. Representatives for the CIA and Turkish intelligence declined to comment.

It was the first indication Ankara has shared its key investigative evidence.

A consulate officer enters Saudi consulate as the waiting continues on the disappearance of Prominent Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul, Turkey on October 15, 2018 (Image: Getty)

“We have shared with those who sought additional information some of the information and findings that the prosecutor has allowed us to share,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters, without giving details.

Trump, the kingdom’s staunchest Western ally, was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying Prince Mohammed bore ultimate responsibility for the operation that led to Khashoggi’s death.