Saudi Arabia has released the preliminary findings of its very “serious” investigation into the murder of dissident Saudi journalistÂ Jamal Khashoggi.
First of all, the Saudi public prosecutor says Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had no knowledge at all of the mission. So we’re (again) being asked to believe that 15 Saudis procured not one, but two Gulfstreak IV jets, flew to Turkey, murdered a well-known critic of bin Salman in the Kingdom’s Istanbul consulate, chopped up his body, disposed of it and left Turkey on the same day, all without the Crown Prince being aware.
That, despite the fact that at least four of the people from the kill team were linked toÂ bin Salman’s security detail and despite the fact that Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, who has been variously photographed traveling with bin Salman on any number of occasions (including when the Crown Prince visited France, Spain, Houston and Boston), hopped on the phone following the killing and told an unidentified man on the other end of the line that “the deed is done, tell your boss.”
The rest of the details from the Saudi prosecutor are equally implausible. The point of the mission, Riyadh claims, was to convince Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia. The person who issued the order to bring Khashoggi back was the deputy chief of intelligence. A “royal advisor” is under investigation as well. When the effort to talk Khashoggi into returning to the Kingdom failed, the team killed him.
That sounds inconsistent with the account of Istanbulâ€™s chief prosecutor, Irfan Fidan, who late last month said the following in his own report:
In accordance with plans made in advance, the victim, Jamal Khashoggi, was choked to death immediately after entering the Consulate General of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul on October 2. The victimâ€™s body was dismembered and destroyed following his death by suffocation â€” again, in line with advance plans.
The notion that the point of the mission was to lure Khashoggi back to the Kingdom also seems inconsistent with the Saudis’ most recent account of the incident in which the same public prosecutor admitted the murder was “premeditated.”
The Saudis claim five people have confessed to Khashoggi’s killing and will face the death penalty. 11 people are charged in the plot and another 10 on top of that are being held.
The Kingdom says Khashoggi’s body was handed over to a â€˜co-operatorâ€™ in TurkeyÂ after Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy was finished cutting it up with his infamous bone saw while listening to iTunes.
If you’re wondering whether the Saudis are going to reveal who the five men are that have confessed to the killing, the answer is, for now, “no”. We “cannot reveal names of those charged yet”, the prosecutor says.
Needless to say, the findings here are farcical and nobody is going to take them seriously, especially considering how much everybody already knows about who was on the assassination squad.
The Saudis better hope Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan isn’t sitting on still more evidence of the Crown Prince’s involvement above and beyond the audio tape he’s already shared with Western intelligence, including, of course, CIA Director Gina Haspel.
â€œThe crown prince says, â€˜I am going to clarify the incident and do what is necessary,â€™â€Â Erdogan said while traveling back to Turkey from Paris on Sunday.
â€œThe crown prince tells this to my special representatives, and we are waiting patiently”, he added.