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Saudi Arabia seeks the death penalty for 5 suspects over Khashoggi murder

Riyadh charged 11 people in connection to the journalist’s death — and none of them were Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

A hand holds a candle in front of a picture of slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
People take part in a candlelight vigil to remember journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate on October 25, 2018, in Istanbul, Turkey.
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Saudi Arabia has charged 11 people in connection to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi — and wants five of them sentenced to death.

The Saudi public prosecutor’s office, which has been investigating how the murder happened and who ordered it, released its findings on Thursday more than a month after Khashoggi’s death.

Khashoggi was killed on October 2 by an injection that contained a sedative overdose, deputy public prosecutor and spokesperson Shaalan al-Shaalan told reporters on Thursday. His body was then dismembered and removed from the Kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul.

Saudi Arabia reportedly sent a 15-member team to bring Khashoggi back to the country after his self-imposed exile to the United States, but negotiations went awry. The person negotiating the journalist’s repatriation then ordered the murder on the spot, the prosecutor’s office said.

As a result, the 21 people who have been arrested by Saudi authorities will likely face punishment, and five of them may pay the ultimate price.

It’s the latest turn in a saga that has negatively impacted Saudi relations with much of the world and threatened to rupture its decades-long relationship with the US.

It’s still unclear if the Saudi Crown Prince was involved in Khashoggi’s death

The biggest mystery, and one that the kingdom likely won’t confirm anytime soon, is how involved Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, better known as MBS, was in the operation.

It’s hard to believe Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader knew nothing about Khashoggi’s demise. After all, one member of the 15-man team was Saud al-Qahtani, a top MBS aide who hasn’t yet been removed from the kingdom’s inner circle, though he has been banned from travel pending the results of the investigation.

But the prosecutor’s explanation seems designed to deflect blame from MBS. Mainly, the official statements make it seem like the decision to murder Khashoggi, who was openly critical of the crown prince, was not premeditated.

But as the New York Times has reported, US officials familiar with Turkish recordings of the incident say it includes a Saudi member of the kill team uttering the phrase “tell your boss” that the operation was successful.

It’s unclear who the “boss” in question is, and could refer to MBS, the Times reported, or another member of the 15-person Saudi team.

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