President Donald Trump says the crown prince of U.S. ally Saudi Arabia has told him directly that he had nothing to do with the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, but Trump says he wonders “will anybody really know.” (Nov. 18)
Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is heard yelling at his attackers and is called a traitor in recordings from the brutal, final hours of the Washington Post columnist’s life, a Turkish newspaper reported Tuesday.
The revelations came hours before President Donald Trump issued a statement of firm support for the kingdom and its leadership – while conceding “it could very well be” that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had advance knowledge of Khashoggi’s murder.
Habertürk columnist Çetiner Çeti, citing Turkish security sources, says the recordings indicate Khashoggi, a longtime critic of the Saudi government, was seized moments after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
“Release my arm! What do you think you are doing?” Khashoggi says early in a recording from a unit of the consulate that deals with visas and other routine paperwork. Habertürk reports that Khashoggi and his captors argued for about seven minutes before he was brought to another section of the consulate.
The recording from the second location included several minutes of arguing followed by the sounds of a physical fight, beating and torture, the newspaper reports.
“Traitor! You will be brought to account!’” a man says. The recording finally goes quiet. More than an hour later, another man’s voice is heard saying: “It is spooky to wear the clothes of a man whom we killed 20 minutes ago.”
The recordings have been given to intelligence officials in the U.S. and Canada as well as several European nations. Trump said U.S. intelligence officers have listened to them, but he has not.
Khashoggi, 59, had gone to the consulate to obtain paperwork for his upcoming marriage. His subsequent disappearance directed severe scrutiny on the kingdom. Video footage showed Khashoggi entering the consulate but not leaving it.
The Saudis initially claimed Khashoggi had left the consulate that day, and security footage shows someone wearing his clothes walking away. For weeks Saudi Arabia denied any knowledge of Khashoggi’s fate.
The Saudis ultimately revised the story, saying Khashoggi died after a fight broke out during his interrogation. The regime said 18 people had been arrested in the incident. A Saudi prosecutor said last week the death penalty would be sought for five suspects.
Turkish authorities say Khashoggi was strangled to death and his body dismembered – and that the hit squad was sent by the “highest levels” of the Saudi government. That has cast the spotlight on the crown prince, who manages the Saudi government and was expected to one day succeed his father as king.
The Washington Post and other news outlets reported last week the CIA has concluded that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s murder. Trump said Tuesday that the CIA was still assessing the case and that “we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder.”
Trump stressed the close political relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia – as well as Saudi investment in the U.S. that will create “hundreds of thousands” of jobs.
“As president of the United States I intend to ensure that, in a very dangerous world, America is pursuing its national interests and vigorously contesting countries that wish to do us harm,” Trump said. ” Very simply it is called America First!”
The Trump administration, under international pressure to severely sanction the kingdom, previously barred 21 Saudi nationals linked to Khashoggi’s death from traveling to the U.S. And the Treasury Department has frozen U.S.-held assets of 17 Saudis and prohibited Americans from doing business with them.
The Saudis adamantly deny that Mohammed either ordered the attack or knew of it in advance. On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told the Saudi-owned Al Sharq Al Awsat that Turkey has assured Saudi intelligence that Turkeys claims were not directed at Mohammed.
“The Saudi leadership, represented by King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed are a red line and we will stand against attempts to undermine or harm them,” he said.
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