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Saudi FM says Jamal Khashoggi killers will be prosecuted, calls global outcry ‘hysterical’

Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist critical of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

world Updated: Oct 27, 2018 18:25 IST
Adel al-Jubeir,Saudi crown prince,Saudi foreign minister
A demonstrator holds a poster with a picture of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.(REUTERS)

Saudi Arabia’s top diplomat said Saturday that the global outcry and media focus on the killing of a Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, earlier this month has become “hysterical” as he urged the public to wait for the results of an investigation before ascribing blame to the kingdom’s top leadership.

Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist critical of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was killed by Saudi agents at the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

“This issue has become fairly hysterical,” Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said. “I think people have assigned blame on Saudi Arabia with such certainty before the investigation is complete.”

Addressing the mounting skepticism around the crown prince’s alleged involvement, Al-Jubeir also said that those behind the killing of the journalist would be prosecuted in the kingdom. He was speaking in response to questions from Western journalists at an annual conference of international officials, including US Defense Secretary James Mattis, in Bahrain.

“We have made clear that we are going to have a full and transparent investigation, the results of which will be released. We have made it very clear that those responsible will be held responsible,” he said, adding that the kingdom has also put in place mechanisms to ensure this does not happen.

Lauding ties with the US, the Saudi minister also said the administration of US President Donald Trump has a “rational, realistic” foreign policy that all Gulf Arab states can support. He said Saudi Arabia was combating Iran’s vision of “darkness” in the Middle East.

Turkey alleges a 15-member hit squad was sent to Istanbul to kill the journalist, a onetime Saudi insider who became an outspoken critic of Prince Mohammed in columns for The Washington Post. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the three others in the group of 18 who have been detained in Saudi Arabia were consulate employees.

Saudi Arabia has said five officials, including two who worked directly under the crown prince, have been relieved of their posts. Al-Jubeir on Saturday said six in total were dismissed. King Salman has assigned his son, the crown prince, to oversee the restructuring of the kingdom’s intelligence bodies in the aftermath of the killing.

Erdogan said Friday that Turkey would reveal more evidence about the killing but was not in any rush to do so, indicating that Turkish authorities will methodically increase pressure on Saudi Arabia even as the kingdom floats conflicting statements in a vain and often clumsy attempt to end the crisis.

After three weeks of shifting Saudi accounts around the incident, the kingdom this week acknowledged that the killing was “premeditated,” citing evidence from Turkish officials investigating what happened. Saudi Arabia originally said Khashoggi had walked out of the consulate October 2, before offering various other narratives that President Donald Trump called “one of the worst cover-ups in the history of cover-ups.”

Turkey is requesting that Saudi Arabia hand over the suspects in the killing, which the kingdom has described as a rogue operation by officials who may have exceeded their orders or authority.

CIA director Gina Haspel, who was in Turkey earlier this week to review evidence, briefed Trump in Washington on Thursday.

Saudi Arabia’s chief prosecutor will arrive in Turkey on Sunday as part of the investigation and will meet with Turkish counterparts, according to Erdogan.

First Published: Oct 27, 2018 18:24 IST