Saudi Arabia again changes its story on Khashoggi killing

Saudi Arabia again changes its story on Khashoggi killing

The Saudi disclosure came after Central Intelligence Agency director Gina Haspel heard an audio recording of the killing during a fact-finding visit to Turkey this week.

Signaling a major pivot in its narrative, Saudi Arabia on Thursday said evidence shows that the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was premeditated, an apparent effort to ease global outrage over the death of a prominent critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi Arabia initially denied any part in the murder, but backtracked following an worldwide outcry over the crisis and blamed "rogue agents" for his death.

Haspel made a secret visit to Turkey this week to check evidence of audio recordings provided by Turkey that it claims capture the murder, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday. He was there to pick up marriage papers, with his fiancée waiting outside in their vehicle.

Earlier on Thursday, Saudi Arabian Prosecutor General Saud Mujib said the murder of Khashoggi, a USA resident and Saudi Arabia critic, was premeditated.

The announcement underscored the rapidly mounting pressures on Saudi Arabia to fully illuminate Khashoggi's killing, after its previous explanations were contradicted by Turkey and met with skepticism by the United States, a close Saudi ally.

After weeks of denials, the kingdom finally confirmed Khashoggi's death on October 20, claiming he died in a fistfight.

MbS and Saudi officials continue to deny that the Crown Prince had any involvement in the killing. Some were members of a 15-man hit team, many of them Saudi intelligence operatives, who flew into Istanbul hours before Khashoggi's death, Turkish security sources say.

How world leaders treat Riyadh going forward appears to hinge on the extent to which they believe the Saudi version of events and how much responsibility sits with the country's powerful crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

"On this occasion, and from this place where the spirit of Jamal has been lost, we clearly state that we will not accept compromises in the case of his murder", the group outside the consulate said in a statement, read out in Arabic, Turkish and English.

Also on Thursday, Human Rights Watch said that Khashoggi's son, Salah, and his family have left Saudi Arabia for the United States after a travel ban on them was lifted. Speaking at an investment forum he was hosting in Riyadh, the crown prince called the killing a "heinous crime" but offered no new information on what happened.

Turkish officials suspect Saudi agents killed Khashoggi, 59, inside the consulate and cut up his body.

"We have shared with those who sought additional information some of the information and findings that the prosecutor has allowed us to share", Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters, without giving details.

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