US implicates Saudi crown prince in Khashoggi's killing: Timeline of the murder
A US intelligence report released on Friday said Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, approved an operation to capture or kill journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. "We assess that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi," the US office of the director of National Intelligence said in the four-page report.
Khashoggi, a US resident who wrote opinion columns for the Washington Post critical of the 35-year-old crown prince’s policies, was killed and dismembered by a team of operatives linked to Salman in the kingdom's consulate in Istanbul in 2018.
US President Joe Biden said he told Saudi King Salman that Saudi Arabia has to tackle human rights abuses as a precondition to dealing with America. "(I) made it clear to him that the rules are changing and we're going to be announcing significant changes today and on Monday," Biden said on Spanish language network Univision.
The Saudi government, which has denied any involvement by the crown prince, rejected the US report's findings and repeated its previous statements that Khashoggi's killing was a heinous crime by a rogue group.
Here is a timeline:
1. Khashoggi had left Saudi Arabia in June 2017 for Washington, DC, where he hoped to continue writing amid a crackdown on dissent in his country.
2. The 59-year-old was a Saudi journalist living in self-imposed exile in Virginia. The veteran journalist was told by Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the US to go to the kingdom's Istanbul consulate if he wanted to obtain documents for his forthcoming wedding to a Turkish woman, Hatice Cengiz.
3. On October 2, 2018, Khashoggi went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He was accompanied by Cengiz – who waited outside the consulate.
4. He was strangled and his body dismembered within minutes of entering the building by a 15-member team allegedly sent from Riyadh under the direction of a top aide to Prince Mohammed, Saud al-Qahtani. His remains have not been found.
5. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had quickly concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered the assassination but former US president Donald Trump refused to release the report.
6. Riyadh initially issued conflicting stories about his disappearance but eventually admitted that Khashoggi was killed in what it called a "rogue" extradition operation gone wrong.
7. Twenty-one men were arrested in the killing and five senior officials, including Asiri and Saud al-Qahtani, a senior aide of the prince, were fired.
8. Some of those involved in the murder were from the Saudi Center for Studies and Media Affairs, then led by Qahtani, "who claimed publicly in mid-2018 that he did not make decisions without the Crown Prince's approval”, the US report noted.
9. In January 2019, 11 people were put on trial behind closed doors. Five were given death sentences, which were commuted to 20 years in prison after they were forgiven by Khashoggi’s family, while three others were given jail terms. Asiri was acquitted "due to insufficient evidence" while Qahtani was investigated but not charged.
10. Khashoggi’s family had filed a federal lawsuit in October last year accusing the crown prince of personally ordering his brutal execution in order to silence the high-profile government critic. The lawsuit was filed in Washington, DC, on behalf of Cengiz and Democracy for the Arab World Now or DAWN. DAWN is the human rights organisation that Khashoggi founded shortly before his death. Cengiz on Friday tweeted “#justiceforjamal” after the release of a declassified US intelligence report on his death.
(With agency inputs)