Saudi Arabia hopes the world will forget about Jamal Khashoggi’s killing, and still hasn’t answered simple questions about his death

A composite image of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Associated Press/Virginia Mayo; Nicolas Asfouri – Pool/Getty
  • It’s been roughly a month since Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and Riyadh still hasn’t answered simple questions about his death.
  • We don’t know where Khashoggi’s body is.
  • The Saudis have admitted Khashoggi’s killing was premeditated, but haven’t said who ordered the hit.
  • Istanbul is getting frustrated with Riyadh’s lack of cooperation as experts warn the Saudis aren’t interested in a genuine investigation.

It’s been roughly a month since Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and Riyadh still hasn’t answered simple questions about his death.

Khashoggi was a prominent Saudi journalist who went into self-imposed exile last year after he was barred from writing by the royal family. He was often critical of the Saudi government, and had been writing for The Washington Post before he was killed.

When he entered the Saudi Consulate on October 2, he intended to obtain documents that would allow him to marry his Turkish fiancée. But Khashoggi never exited the building.

The disturbing and mysterious circumstances surrounding Khashoggi’s killing rapidly made it an international scandal for Saudi Arabia. But the story seems to be fading from memory, especially in the US where people have been inundated with news of attempted pipe bombings and a synagogue massacre ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. This seems to be exactly what the Saudis are hoping for.

Read more:
Here’s everything we know about the troubling disappearance and death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi

Sherine Tadros, head of the UN office for Amnesty International in New York, recently told Business Insider, “At the end of the day the Saudis have clearly had a very destructive hand in the events that went on inside of that consulate. They don’t want to see a real investigation happen.”

‘We are still demanding answers and accountability’

Khashoggi’s editor at The Post, Karen Attiah, is urging people to keep pushing for answers on his killing.

On Tuesday, Attiah tweeted, “I know there a lot going on into the news, but just reminder that a Washington Post columnist, [Jamal Khashoggi] and my friend was brutally murdered almost 4 weeks ago by Saudi state actors. We are still demanding answers and accountability.”

Attiah is correct. We still don’t know exactly who ordered the hit against Khashoggi, nor do we know where his body or remains are. The Saudis have been evasive when questioned about this and the Trump administration, which has close ties to the Saudi leadership, is being criticised for not putting more pressure on Riyadh in this regard.

Saudi Arabia’s narrative on Khashoggi’s killing has shifted multiple times since he first disappeared on October 2.

Read more:
How the Saudi government’s story on slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi has shifted over time

Initially, the Saudis claimed he safely departed the consulate, but provided no proof.

After over two weeks, Riyadh finally admitted Khashoggi was dead, dubiously claiming he was accidentally killed in a fistfight in the embassy as part of a “rogue operation” that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, had no prior knowledge of. MBS, the de facto ruler of the kingdom, is widely suspected of orchestrating the killing.

Amid the twists and turns in their narrative, reports surfaced the Saudis attempted to use a body double to cover-up the killing. Saudi officials ultimately told The Associated Press a body double was used but said it was part of a plan to kidnap rather than kill Khashoggi.

The Saudi’s narrative shifted again when state-run news quoted a prosecutor with knowledge of Turkey’s investigation into Khashoggi’s fate as saying evidence indicated that his killing was premeditated.

In short, Riyadh went from denying any involvement in Khashoggi’s killing to admitting his death was planned.

Both Istanbul and Riyadh say Khashoggi’s killing was premeditated, but we still don’t know who ordered it

Istanbul’s chief prosecutor Irfan Fidan on Wednesday said an investigation into Khashoggi’s killing found he was strangled shortly after entering the consulate and subsequently dismembered. This was the most official description yet of what happened to Khashoggi. Up until this point, many of the purported details surrounding Khashoggi’s killing were a result of Turkish officials leaking information to the press.

In his announcement on Wednesday, Fidan also demanded Riyadh reveal where Khashoggi’s body is. An anonymous Saudi official previously told Reuters that Khashoggi’s body was wrapped up in a rug and given to a “local collaborator.” There’s no proof of this, and Fidan said no statement had been made by the Saudis regarding the existence of a local cooperator.

The Saudis have also not said who ordered the killing, offering no details on the “planning stage,” Fidan said. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has expressed frustration of this fact as well, and on Tuesday called on Riyadh to reveal who made the order.

“There is no point in procrastinating or trying to save some people from under this,” Erdogan said.

Fidan further demanded the Saudis extradite 18 people arrested in connection with Khashoggi’s killing to Istanbul, reiterating a similar call recently made by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But the Saudis seem insistent on trying trying the suspects in domestic courts.

Fidan’s statement came after a three-day visit from Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor, Saud al-Mojeb.

The Istanbul prosecutor said his meetings with Mojeb over Khashoggi’s killing ended with “no concrete” results.

“Despite our well-intentioned efforts to reveal the truth, no concrete results have come out of those meetings,” Fidan said, stating the Saudis had promised “same day” answers but not delivered.

‘We did not get the impression that they were keen on genuinely cooperating’

An unnamed Turkish official told Agence France-Presse on Wednesday that the Saudis do not seem interested in “genuinely cooperating with the investigation.”

“The Saudi officials seemed primarily interested in finding out what evidence the Turkish authorities had against the perpetrators,” the official said.

“We did not get the impression that they were keen on genuinely cooperating with the investigation,” the official added.

The Saudi Embassy in Washington, DC, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.

Trump is under pressure to do more, but has expressed reluctance

President Donald Trump has largely stood by the Saudis throughout the Khashoggi crisis.

The White House has not responded to repeated requests for comment from Business Insider on whether Trump has asked the Saudis about the location of Khashoggi’s remains.

Meanwhile, US lawmakers seem frustrated by the lack of progress in the investigation, including Republicans.

Read more:
‘I think the Saudis believe they have a blank check’: Top Senate Democrat slams Trump’s response to Khashoggi killing

There have been bipartisan calls for the US to level economic sanctions against, and end arms sales to, the Saudis – something Trump has expressed a reluctance to do.

Republican senators on Wednesday stepped up these efforts by sending a letter to Trump urging him to suspend negotiations for a US-Saudi civil nuclear agreement, specifically citing “the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”