A senior Saudi government official speaking to Reuters news agency has offered new details concerning the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2nd.
Amid scepticism, Saudi official provides another version of Khashoggi death https://t.co/OoNNzCYrXi
— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) October 21, 2018
The latest account was provided by a Saudi official who requested anonymity. His story includes more information about how the team of 15 Saudi nationals sent to confront Khashoggi in Istanbul had threatened him with being drugged and kidnapped and then killed him in a chokehold when he resisted.
He said a Saudi team member dressed up in Khashoggi’s own clothes so that it would look like the journalist had left the consulate. This was never seen on any surveillance tape, however.
According to this new account Khashoggi’s body was placed on a rug that was rolled up and given to someone else who disposed of the body. This person was described as a “local cooperator” with the Saudis, and was not named.
When Reuters asked the anonymous official whether Khashoggi had been dismembered before being killed, he said that conclusion was not shown by preliminary results of the investigation.
According to Reuters:
“The Saudi official presented what he said were Saudi internal intelligence documents which appeared to show the initiative to bring back dissidents as well as the specific one involving Khashoggi. He also showed testimony from those involved in what he described as the 15-man team’s cover-up, and the initial results of an internal probe. He did not provide proof to substantiate the findings of the investigation and the other evidence.”
When asked why the Saudi government’s story has changed several times after Khashoggi’s disappearance, the unnamed Saudi official had a ready excuse. He claims that the government’s incorrect account of Khashoggi’s disappearance was not their fault but was based on “false information reported internally at the time.”
“Once it became clear these initial mission reports were false, it launched an internal investigation and refrained from further public comment,” he said.
The official then added that the investigation into the details concerning Khashoggi’s killing is ongoing.
The Saudis are now saying that they were trying to convince Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia. He had moved to the United States just a year ago when he began fearing for his safety.
The government is now claiming their conversations with Khashoggi were part of a larger program they started to prevent Saudi dissidents from being recruited by enemies.
This is why, the official said, the Saudi General Intelligence Presidency sent a 15-member team to Istanbul. He said they merely wanted to meet Khashoggi at the consulate and try to convince him to return to Saudi Arabia.
“There is a standing order to negotiate the return of dissidents peacefully; which gives them the authority to act without going back to the leadership” the official said.
According to the plan, the team could hold Khashoggi in a safe house outside Istanbul for “a period of time” but then release him if he ultimately refused to return to Saudi Arabia, the official said.
Things went wrong from the start. Khashoggi refused to cooperate and the Saudi intelligence team didn’t follow their orders and then became violent, the official said.
According to their account, during the discussion Khashoggi raised his voice and members of the Saudi intelligence team “panicked.” Trying to restrain him, they placed him in a chokehold and covered his mouth.
“They tried to prevent him from shouting but he died,” the official said. “The intention was not to kill him.”
To cover up Khashoggi’s death, the Saudis “rolled up Khashoggi’s body in a rug” and removed it by using a consular vehicle. Once outside the consulate compound they gave the body to a “local cooperator” for disposal, the official said. He said the local cooperator is an Istanbul resident but would not reveal his identity or his nationality.
According to the official Saudi investigators are still attempting to locate Khashoggi’s body.
The official said that one of the Saudi operatives put on Khashoggi’s clothes, eyeglasses and Apple watch and left through the back door of the consulate. He said they were trying to make it look like Khashoggi had walked out on his own accord, and was still alive.
Reportedly the Saudi intelligence team then wrote a false report for their superiors within the Saudi intelligence agency. They falsely wrote that they had allowed Khashoggi to leave after he threatened to get Turkish authorities involved.
All 15 Saudi intelligence agents immediately left Turkey before Khashoggi’s death could be discovered.
The official said all 15 team members had been detained and placed under investigation, along with three other local individuals who were involved in the incident.