Here we go again with, you know, you’re guilty until proven innocent. I don’t like that. We just went through that with Justice Kavanaugh and he was innocent all the way as far as I’m concerned.
That’s what Donald Trump told the Associated Press when asked about damning evidence that implicates Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the gruesome murder of Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Over the past 10 days, media reports based on, among other things, the accounts of Turkish officials who have reviewed an audio tape of the murder, CCTV video evidence and U.S. intelligence intercepts, seem to prove Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
After initially claiming Khashoggi exited the consulate shortly after entering to obtain necessary papers for his marriage, Riyadh is now preparing to change their story to a tale of “rogue” generals who were dispatched to kidnap Khashoggi but were not authorized by the Crown Prince to commit murder.
Unfortunately from Riyadh, details of the audio tape have now surfaced.
According to Yeni Safak newspaper (which is close to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan), Khashoggi’s fingers were chopped off during his brief interrogation and he was ultimately beheaded.
At one point, Saudi Consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi reportedly implores the 15-man hit squad dispatched by bin Salman to “Do this outside. You’re going to get me in trouble.” The reply from bin Salman’s assassins: “If you want to live, be quiet!”
On October 6, al-Otaibi actually took Reuters on a tour of the consulate, “opening cupboards, filing cabinets and wooden panels covering air conditioning units”, ostensibly to prove that Khashoggi’s severed limbs weren’t stashed away next to the plates, or filed away with some loose documents or crammed into the ducts. On Tuesday, he left Turkey and returned to Saudi Arabia.
Middle East Eye published an even more detailed version of the events. To wit:
It took seven minutes for Jamal Khashoggi to die, a Turkish source who has listened in full to an audio recording of the Saudi journalist’s last moments told Middle East Eye.
Horrendous screams were then heard by a witness downstairs, the source said.
The screaming stopped when Khashoggi – who was last seen entering the Saudi consulate on 2 October – was injected with an as yet unknown substance.
If that’s not macabre enough for you, well then you’re in “luck”, because it gets worse.
When news that the Saudis planned to say Khashoggi’s death wasn’t premeditated first hit, we politely suggested the “botched interrogation” excuse wasn’t likely to fly for one simple reason:
If the Saudis do intend to try and float the “botched interrogation” story, they are going to need to explain a number of readily apparent discrepancies, not the least of which is why Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, chief of forensic evidence and an autopsy expert, was present for the “interrogation”.
Well, according to the same Middle East Eye article linked above, Tubaigy dismembered Khashoggi while he was still among the living on al-Otaibi’s desk.
As he went to work with his bone saw, he reportedly put in earphones, turned to the rest of the men in the room, and said this:
When I do this job, I listen to music. You should do [that] too.
The Wall Street Journal published a similar account.
Is it possible for bin Salman to suggest that this was a rogue operation? In a word: “No.”
“At least nine of 15 suspects identified by Turkish authorities worked for the Saudi security services, military or other government ministries”, the New York Times wrote on Tuesday evening, adding that Tubaigy’s “stature [means] he could be directed only by a high-ranking Saudi authority.”
Mike Pompeo is in Turkey on Wednesday meeting with Erdogan and Turkish foreign minister MevlÃ¼t Ã‡avuÅŸoÄŸlu. Turkish officials who searched the Saudi consulate on Tuesday say they found evidence of “freshly painted walls” and traces of “toxic substances.”
While in Riyadh on Tuesday, Pompeo posed for smiling pictures with King Salman and the Crown Prince. The State Department, in a laughable statement, claimed the Kingdom is committed to conducting “a thorough, transparent, and timely investigation that provides answers.”
On Wednesday morning, Trump appeared to say the quote excerpted here at the outset from his interview with AP was taken out of context.