Saudi Arabia Will Seek Death Penalty for Accused Khashoggi Killers

Saudi Arabia will seek the death penalty for the killers of government critic Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, a Saudi prosecutor said Thursday.

Eleven people have been charged in Khashoggi’s murder out of 21 people held in the case. Khashoggi, a fierce critic of the Saudi royal family, was strangled to death at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 and his body dismembered, the Saudi chief prosecutor said.

Turkey has shared an audio recording of the killing with the U.S., France, Canada, Germany, U.K., but did not blame Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the murder. The 33-year-old prince is in charge of the affairs of the Saudi kingdom day to day. The Saudi Arabian government has strongly denied he had any knowledge of the operation. They initially denied knowing anything about Khashoggi’s disappearance but later said they had discovered it was an interrogation gone wrong leading to the journalist’s death.

Saudi prosecutors issued a statement saying that the former deputy head of intelligence, Ahmed al-Asiri, had sent a team to Turkey to negotiate Khashoggi’s return to Saudi Arabia. The responsibility for the death of Khashoggi fell on the man in charge of the Saudi team in Istanbul, the prosecutor clarified.  

A Saudi royal adviser and a senior intelligence official played key roles in the mission that ultimately led to the killing of Khashoggi. The prosecutor announced that he will seek the death penalty for  the five people who have confessed to the murder.

“The Saudi government demands the death penalty for those who ordered and executed the killing and they’re five people,” the prosecutor said at a news conference in Riyadh.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman  had no knowledge of the mission, the prosecutor said.

Khashoggi’s killing led to a global outcry and has harmed the reputation of the young prince, whose efforts to cast himself as a bolder reformer and trusted U.S. ally have often been in conflict with his policies abroad. Officials in several countries have said it is unlikely Khashoggi could have been killed without the knowledge of Crown Prince.