Saudi Arabia’s deputy public prosecutor has said the kingdom is seeking the death penalty for five people who have been accused of carrying out the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.
Shaalan al-Shaalan told a news conference in Riyadh on Thursday that Ahmed al-Assiri, the kingdom’s former deputy head of intelligence, dispatched a team to Turkey to persuade Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia.
He said after “talks with him failed”, the head of the Saudi team in Istanbul ordered that Khashoggi be killed.
The 59-year-old then died from a lethal injection and his body was dismembered and taken out of the building, he said.
Al-Shaalan said 21 people were now in custody, with 11 indicted and referred to trial, adding that Saud al-Qahtani, a former adviser to the royal court, had been banned from travelling and remained under investigation.
Al-Shaalan said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, also known as MBS, was not implicated in the gruesome murder that has triggered global outrage.
Khashoggi, a critic of MBS’s supposed reform programme, entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2 to obtain a document certifying his divorce.
Saudi authorities had initially stated the journalist left the consulate, before backtracking and admitting on October 20 he was killed by “rogue” operatives.
Turkish officials have said it is unlikely Khashoggi could have been killed without the knowledge of MBS, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan saying the orders came from “the highest levels of the Saudi government.”
According to the New York Times, a member of the Saudi team that killed Khashoggi made a phone call shortly after his death, instructing someone in Saudi Arabia to “tell your boss” that the assassination had been carried out.
Later on Thursday, Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s foreign minister, criticised the Saudi announcement as “insufficient” and insisted the killing was “premeditated.”
“Turkish law is applicable in this case, even though the murder took place in the Saudi consulate,” he said, demanding that all the suspects be extradited and “tried in accordance with Turkish law”.
Bill Law, a journalist and Middle East analyst, told Al Jazeera that despite not being implicated, there was “enormous pressure” accumulating on MBS, and Turkey could demand an international probe into the journalist’s murder.
“Just yesterday, Lindsey Graham described him [MBS] as unreliable and unstable.
“Graham, a senior Republican senator, and Bob Corker, the chair of the foreign relations committee, have called for an immediate end to the arms deals that the US has [with Saudi Arabia] in the Yemen war and has also said that as far as he’s concerned, Mohammed bin Salman is the person responsible,” Law said.
“[Erdogan] will keep up the demand for an international investigation. It is clear that no one has any faith in the Saudis investigating effectively, Mohammed bin Salman investigating himself nor in the Saudi judicial system.
“It’s a pressure point that Erdogan can continue to push on and I think he will do that.”