Jamal Khashoggi death: Saudis’ explanation challenged

:: Peoples Time Online ::

Saudi Arabia is facing growing demands for more answers over the death of writer Jamal Khashoggi.

The UK’s Brexit minister was the latest to call the explanation Mr Khashoggi had died after a “fist fight” in the consulate in Istanbul “not credible”.

US President Donald Trump has said he is “not satisfied”, joining the EU and UN in calling for more clarity.

Turkish officials believe the critic of the Saudi government was murdered and his body dismembered.

Mr Khashoggi entered the consulate on 2 October to sort out divorce papers. Saudi Arabia initially said he had left shortly afterwards but has now admitted he died inside the building.

How are nations responding to the Saudi account?

UK Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab said of the explanation: “I don’t think it is credible. We support the Turkish investigation and the British government will want to see people held to account for that death.”

However, he reflected the cautious stance of Mr Trump on possible actions against Saudi Arabia.

Mr Raab said: “We are not going to throw our hands in the air and terminate our relationship with Saudi Arabia, not just because of the huge number of British jobs that depend on it but also because if you exert influence over your partners you need to be able to talk to them.”

On Saturday, Mr Trump had said: “I’m not satisfied until we find the answer.”

But the US president said that, although sanctions were a possibility, halting an arms deal would “hurt us more than it would hurt them”.

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin repeated that on Sunday, saying talk of sanctions was “premature”.

On Saturday, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said the Saudi “explanations offered to date lack consistency and credibility”.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged transparency, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian spoke of unanswered questions and Australian PM Scott Morrison said: “This cannot stand. This will not do.”

Top EU diplomat Federica Mogherini and UN chief Antonio Guterres have said those responsible must be held to account.

Amnesty International has called the Saudi explanation a whitewash of “an appalling assassination”.

The Washington Post, which published articles by Mr Khashoggi, said the Saudi government had “shamefully and repeatedly offered one lie after another”.

Do the Saudis have support?

Yes, from a number of regional neighbours.

On Sunday, Kuwait was the latest ally to praise King Salman for his handling of the case, saying it showed “the kingdom’s keenness and commitment to establish the truth and its respect for legal principles to bring to account those behind this regretful event”.

Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have been among those reflecting similar praise.

Saudi media on Sunday echoed this. The al-Riyadh newspaper reported a “wide welcome” of the government’s “justice and firmness”.

So far Saudi Arabia says it has arrested 18 people, sacked two aides of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and set up a body, under his leadership, to reform the intelligence agency.

But its brief comment on the “fist fight” leaves many questions unanswered.

Where is the investigation now?

Turkey on Saturday said it would release all the details it had and that it would not allow a cover up.

It has so far stopped short of officially blaming Saudi Arabia for the killing but investigators have said they have audio and video evidence which shows Mr Khashoggi, was killed by a team of Saudi agents inside the consulate.

A key question asked by Mr Khashoggi’s friends is, where is the body?

Police have searched the nearby Belgrad forest in Istanbul where they believe the body may have been taken and one official was hopeful its fate would be known “before long”.

Both the consulate and the residence of the Saudi consul have been searched too.

The Saudi account has changed a number of times. It initially said Mr Khashoggi had left the building and called allegations he died there “baseless”.

Reuters reported on Sunday it had spoken to a Saudi official who said Mr Khashoggi had died in a chokehold after resisting attempts to return him to Saudi Arabia. His body was then rolled in a rug and given to a local “co-operator” to dispose of.

A Saudi operative then reportedly donned Mr Khashoggi’s clothes and left the consulate.

The official said Saudi statements had changed because of “false information reported internally at the time”.


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