Jamal Khashoggi was strangled to death and then dismembered in a preplanned attack inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, a Turkish prosecutor said on Wednesday — the first official confirmation from Turkey’s government about how the journalist died.
It’s the latest development in an ongoing, horrific murder case that sounds like it was pulled straight from the pages of a gruesome political thriller and threatens to undermine relations between Saudi Arabia and the world.
In a statement released to the Turkish press on Wednesday, Istanbul’s top prosecutor Irfan Fidan described the killing as “premeditated” and categorized recent meetings with Saudi Arabia’s prosecutor about the ongoing investigation as less than helpful.
“Despite all our good intentions and efforts to unravel the truth, a concrete outcome was not reached from the meetings,” Fidan’s statement said. The Saudi official, Saud al-Mujeb, had spent three days conferring with Turkish authorities in Istanbul but was scheduled to head back to Saudi Arabia later that day.
The Saudis maintain that Khashoggi died as the result of a rogue operation gone awry and have detained 18 people in connection to the case.
However, Turkish authorities and many experts believe that Saudi Arabia’s young crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, likely ordered the operation that led to Khashoggi’s death.
Whether the Saudi royal will face any consequences from the international community and the US, though, is still anyone’s guess.
Saudi Arabia killed a prominent journalist, but it’s still unclear if there will be consequences
On October 2, Jamal Khashoggi visited the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on a routine trip to pick up some paperwork — and never came out again.
Khashoggi was a journalist and prominent critic of the Saudi government, and a frequent contributor to the Washington Post. He had fled his home country last year because he feared arrest, and was living in the US as a permanent resident.
In the days and weeks after his disappearance, various explanations emerged as to what happened to him. Turkish authorities said he had been murdered, while Saudi authorities said he had exited the embassy through another door. US intelligence, meanwhile, revealed plans by the Saudi government to capture Khashoggi and bring him back to the country to be detained.
As pressure mounted, the Saudis changed their story and admitted that he had died inside the consulate — but said it was the result of a rogue operation gone awry.
Later, Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor said Khashoggi had indeed been killed in a preplanned attack but offered no more details. And now Turkish authorities have gone on record describing how the murder happened.
One larger question that remains is whether and how Saudi Arabia’s government will be held accountable for its crime.
The United Nations and international human rights groups have roundly condemned the country, and some European countries have canceled diplomatic visits over the issue. Germany went as far as to suspend arms sales.
But the US, which enjoys a strong relationship with Saudi Arabia, has had a much softer response. While the Trump administration has implemented some low-level punishments, like revoking visas for several of the Saudi suspects in the case, the president has also expressed his unwillingness to truly upset relations with Saudi Arabia by canceling billions of dollars in lucrative arms deals, and held back from withdrawing US support of the bloody Saudi-led war on Yemen.
Some members of Congress have loudly voiced their frustration with the administration’s unwillingness to take strong action against the regime.
A bipartisan group of senators earlier this month demanded an investigation into Khashoggi’s death and requested sanctions be placed on whoever was responsible. And on Wednesday, a group of Republican senators sent a letter to the president asking him to suspend talks with the country on developing a civil nuclear program over Khashoggi’s death.
“The ongoing revelations about the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as well as certain Saudi actions related to Yemen and Lebanon, have raised further serious concerns about the transparency, accountability, and judgment of current decisionmakers in Saudi Arabia,” they wrote.
It remains to be seen if the Trump administration will sweep the Khashoggi case under the rug — or actually take steps to hold Saudi authorities accountable.