Saudi Arabia confirmed the death of Washington Post contributor and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi on Friday, over two weeks after he was last seen entering a Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
Despite widespread condemnation of Saudi Arabia over its perceived role in Khashoggi’s killing after details emerged about his apparent torture and execution and footage surfaced of a 15-man “assassination squad” arriving in Turkey, a Saudi public prosecutor claimed “a fight broke out between Khashoggi and people who met him in the consulate and led to his death,” per Reuters.
Saudi State TV also announced the dismissals of five government officials, the arrests of 18 other individuals, and the launch of a commission as part of the nation’s ongoing investigation into Khashoggi’s death. That commission will be led by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the son of King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud. According to the New York Times, U.S. intelligence officials believe bin Salman was involved in Khashoggi’s killing.
MSNBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin noted bin Salman’s appointment to head the commission indicates he maintains the approval of his father.
One most important headlines of this evening is this:
The Saudi King has ordered a ministerial-level committee chaired by the Crown Prince to reconstitute the Intelligence Agency
THIS IS THE CLEAREST SIGN THAT MBS IS NOT GOING ANYWHERE and that King has doubled down on his son
— Ayman Mohyeldin (@AymanM) October 19, 2018
Numerous reporters expressed skepticism about Saudi Arabia’s explanation for Khashoggi’s death.
Michael Weiss of CNN and the Daily Beast suggested it should not have taken over two weeks to determine Khashoggi died in a fist fight in the Saudi consulate.
Two weeks to say he died in a brawl. This needed an investigation, huh? And still no trace of his body. Reminds me of the IQ of Syrian state media: “Today we arrested two terrorists who blew themselves up.”
— Michael Weiss (@michaeldweiss) October 19, 2018
Middle East Eye’s Osha Mahmoud pointed out that bin Salman had previously said Khashoggi left the consulate shortly after his arrival.
5th October –
Mohammed bin Salman asked about Khashoggi in Bloomberg interview to which he replies that Khashoggi left after “a few minutes of one hour” pic.twitter.com/L6e17CIPnL
— Osha Mahmoud (@Osha001) October 19, 2018
Axios’ Jonathan Swan recalled a recent conversation with Prince Khalid bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.S. who is bin Salman’s brother, in which the member of the Saudi royal family claimed reports that officials had killed Khashoggi were “absolutely false, and baseless.”
My WhatsApp conversation on Oct 8-9 with MBS’ younger brother has not aged well… radio silence from him after I replied by asking if the Saudis had footage of Khashoggi leaving the consulate. pic.twitter.com/9VeeOppxw7
— Jonathan Swan (@jonathanvswan) October 19, 2018
President Donald Trump suggested “rogue killers” could be behind Khashoggi’s murder earlier this week. Trump has indicated he is opposed to punishing Saudi Arabia due to a pending U.S. arms deal with the country. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement about the delayed Saudi acknowledgement of Khashoggi’s death on Friday evening.
Statement on Saudi Arabia Investigation: pic.twitter.com/DjBdwZAGAi
— Sarah Sanders (@PressSec) October 19, 2018
The relationship between bin Salman and White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, has come under scrutiny after Khashoggi was killed in a Saudi consulate on October 2. Bin Salman reportedly bragged that Kushner was “in his pocket” after the two met in Riyadh last year.
Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Thursday that the Trump administration has placed a “clampdown” on information regarding Khashoggi’s death, and lawmakers have been prevented from viewing intelligence. Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) called on Trump to recall the acting ambassador to Saudi Arabia in a tweet on Friday.
ThinkProgress’ D. Parvaz explained why Khashoggi was targeted by the Saudis.
Khashoggi has been an outspoken, if measured, critic of his government’s crackdowns in recent months. Under Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (known as MBS), the country has undertaken a series of detentions and shakedowns of some of its wealthiest and locked up its human rights activists.
Khashoggi’s final Washington Post column, entitled “What the Arab world needs most is free expression,” was published on Wednesday.