Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance and alleged murder, previously covered at TNB, has continued to draw international attention.
Saudi Arabia continues to deny any wrongdoing regarding Khashoggi, with their U.S. ambassador describing the situation as a series of “malicious leaks and grim rumors“. One state paper, the Saudi Gazette, is actively attacking those who have leveled the charges and claiming they are motivated politically.
Evidence continues to mount that refutes their position. The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that American officials had intercepted orders by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia and detain him there. Their investigation indicates that the effort had been in place for months, with offers of government positions and amnesty should he return.
“He said: ‘Are you kidding? I don’t trust them one bit,’ ” said Khaled Saffuri, an Arab American political activist, recounting a conversation he had with Khashoggi in May, moments after Khashoggi had received a call from Saud al-Qahtani, an adviser to the royal court.
Turkish officials have been able to determine a timeline of Khashoggi’s disappearance both through the direct reports of his fiancee and friends who were waiting outside for him but through physical evidence. An Apple watch he left outside and video surveillance evidence has confirmed both the exact time of his entry and that he did not respond to text messages while inside.
The Post was also able to determine that a team of fifteen Saudis were flown into Turkey and driven to the embassy just prior to Khashoggi’s scheduled arrival, and that the group left and returned to Saudi Arabia shortly afterward. This, combined with the knowledge of the order to lure and detain the journalist has fueled speculation of a possible rendition attempt. Turkish media has released video of the group of men in question.
Turkey has taken a strong interest in the case, with Turkish President Recep Erdogan promising comprehensive investigation of the case from all available agencies. He has also denounced Saudi’s claims of surveillance failure in the embassy, the official reason provided as to why they cannot prove their claim that Khashoggi left the embassy alive and unharmed, only disappearing afterward.
Responding to Saudi claims that the cameras were not functioning on Oct. 2, Erdoğan said this was not a logical explanation. “Is it possible not to have camera systems at a consulate or an embassy? Is it possible that camera systems didn’t exist at the Saudi Arabia Consulate, where the incident took place? They can even catch bird or a mosquito with the advanced systems they have,” the president said. Erdoğan had previously said that Saudi officials “cannot escape responsibility by simply saying that he left.”Daily Sabah
The White House has promised to “get to the bottom” of the matter, but the close ties between the President’s son-in-law and adviser, Jared Kushner, and the Saudi Crown Prince have raised questions in Washington about how strongly President Trump may wish to press the subject. The issue is further complicated by Saudi Arabia’s positioning as the key ally in Trump’s efforts toward Iranian containment.
Pressure is being put on the White House to speak with the Crown Prince about the disappearance of Khashoggi, including via a bipartisan public letter detailing the allegations and stressing that he was a legal resident of the U.S. under a standing visa and thereby under our national protection.