Trudeau pushes for more Saudi accountability in Khashoggi killing

Trudeau pushes for more Saudi accountability in Khashoggi killing
Saudi prosecutor seeks death penalty for five in murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor said Thursday he would seek the death penalty for five men charged with the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, while the United States moved to sanction 17 Saudi officials it said were involved in the slaying.

The Saudi announcement appeared aimed at distancing the killers and their operation from the kingdom's leadership, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, amid a global outcry over the writer's death.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on Thursday announced the new economic sanctions, which will target officials the Treasury Department believes were responsible for or complicit in the killing.

Cavusoglu says: “I want to say that we did not find some of his explanations to be satisfactory” and that “those who gave the order, the real perpetrators need to be revealed. This process cannot be closed down in this way.”

Among those targeted by the economic sanctions are Saud al-Qahtani, who was one of the crown prince's closest aides, and Mohammed al-Otaibi, the diplomat in charge of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where Khashoggi was killed Oct. 2. Also named is Maher Mutreb, who was part of the crown prince's entourage on trips abroad.

Saudi Al-Mojeb told journalists in a rare press conference in Riyadh on Thursday that Khashoggi’s killers had set in motion plans for the killing on Sept. 29, three days before he was killed inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

Earlier in the day, and with Saudi Arabia facing mounting international pressure, Saudi prosecutors gave a rare news conference, during which they pointed the finger at some members of the crown prince's inner circle but stopped short of accusing them of ordering Khashoggi's killing.

Those closest to the prince were instead accused of ordering Khashoggi's forced return in an operation that the Saudis allege went awry.

The prosecutor says the highest-level official behind the killing is Saudi former deputy intelligence chief Ahmad al-Assiri, who has been fired for ordering Khashoggi’s forced return.

Sheikh Shalan al-Shalan, the country's deputy attorney general, said the killing was ordered by an individual whom he did not identify but said was responsible for negotiating Khashoggi's return back to Saudi Arabia from Istanbul.

Turkey has blamed the highest ranks of power in Saudi Arabia for Khashoggi’s brutal death, saying the kingdom sent an assassination squad for him.

The individual was part of a 15-man team that was made up of negotiators, intelligence officers and logistics officials.

Turkey’s foreign minister says the death penalty announcement for five suspects falls short of Turkey’s expectations.

Al-Shalan said that on the morning of Oct. 2, the leader of the negotiating team saw that he would not be able to force Khashoggi to return, "so he decided to kill him in the moment."

This appeared to contradict a previous Saudi statement quoting Turkish intelligence as saying the killing had been premeditated.

Chief prosecutor Saud Al-Mojeb said that of the 21 people in custody, 11 have been indicted and referred to trial, and that he would seek the death penalty against five of the suspects.

Khashoggi's killers set their plans in motion on Sept. 29, the prosecutor said, adding that the killers drugged and killed the writer in the consulate before dismembering the body and handing it over for disposal by an unidentified local collaborator. The body has not been found.

It's not unusual for a Saudi prosecutor to announce he would seek the death penalty before a trial.

Meanwhile on Thursday, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters the crown prince had "absolutely" nothing to do with the killing.

Al-Jubeir said the kingdom is investigating and holding those responsible to account "to make sure this doesn't happen again."

The latest Saudi account of what took place failed to appease officials in Turkey, however, who insist the killing and its coverup were carried out by the highest levels of government.

"We did not find some of his explanations to be satisfactory," Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said after the Saudi announcement.

"Those who gave the order, the real perpetrators, need to be revealed. This process cannot be closed down in this way."

Through a series of orchestrated leaks, including audio of the killing that was shared with Western intelligence, Turkey has attempted to keep pressure on the crown prince, who sees Turkey as a regional rival.

Saudi Arabia said 21 people are now in custody, with 11 indicted and referred to trial. The Turkish government is demanding the suspects be investigated and put on trial in Turkey.

Among the high-level officials incriminated in connection with the killing is former deputy intelligence chief Ahmed al-Assiri, who was fired in the immediate aftermath of the killing.

Al-Assiri, believed to have been a close confidant of Prince Mohammed, and former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani are accused of planning and ordering Khashoggi's forced return to Saudi Arabia. Prosecutors say the men formed a 15-man Saudi team to carry out the operation.

Saudi prosecutors said the men deemed Khashoggi a threat because of his work as a writer and he was allegedly backed by groups and countries that are hostile to Saudi Arabia.

However, Saudi prosecutors stopped short of accusing al-Assiri or al-Qahtani of ordering the killing itself — further distancing the killers from the crown prince's inner circle and bolstering Saudi assertions that the killing was carried out by rogue agents who exceeded their authority. 

Khashoggi had been living in self-imposed exile abroad for nearly a year before he was killed by Saudi agents at the consulate on Oct. 2.

Khashoggi had gone to the consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents for his upcoming marriage. His Turkish fiancée waited outside and first raised the alarm about his disappearance.

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Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor is seeking the death penalty for five out of 11 suspects charged in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in a case that has strained the kingdom’s ties with key Western allies, his office said on Thursday.

Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Saudi policy, was killed in the country’s Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2, after a struggle, by a lethal injection dose and his body was dismembered and taken out of the building, deputy public prosecutor and spokesman Shaalan al-Shaalan told reporters.

READ MORE: Freeland mum on what comes next now that Canadian officials have heard Khashoggi murder recording

He said the Washington Post columnist was murdered after “negotiations” for his return to the kingdom failed and that the person who ordered the killing was the head of the negotiating team that was sent to repatriate Khashoggi.

Turkish officials are not satisfied with the remarks, Ankara’s foreign minister said on Thursday, adding the journalist was targeted in a premeditated killing.

Riyadh had offered numerous contradictory explanations for his disappearance, before saying Khashoggi was killed after “negotiations” to convince him to return to the kingdom failed. On Thursday, the public prosecutor’s office said he was killed after a struggle by a lethal injection and his body dismembered and taken out of the building.

“I don’t find some comments satisfying. They say this person was killed because he resisted, whereas this murder was premeditated,” Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters.

“Again, they say he was dismembered… but this isn’t a spontaneous thing. The necessary equipment and people were previously brought in to kill and later dismember him.”

President Tayyip Erdogan has said the killing was ordered at the “highest levels” of the Saudi government.

Cavusoglu also reiterated Turkey’s call for Riyadh to disclose the location of Khashoggi‘s remains.

“Where is the body of the murdered Khashoggi? Where was it thrown, where was it burned?” Cavusoglu said. He did not say whether Turkey had evidence that pointed to the body having been burned. Turkey has previously called for an investigation into reports the body was dissolved in acid.

Cavusoglu also repeated Erdogan’s call that the suspects in the case should be tried in Turkey, not Saudi Arabia.