Saudi Arabia said yesterday the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi appeared to have been premeditated, based on information from Turkey, backing away from an earlier claim that he was killed in a brawl.
It was the latest twist in the shifting official narrative of the October 2 killing inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, which US President Donald Trump has derided as “one of the worst cover-ups” in history.
Saudi Arabia has sought to draw a line under the crisis, and a rights group said Thursday that authorities had allowed Khashoggi’s eldest son Salah and his family to leave the country after lifting a travel ban.
But the kingdom still faces mounting pressure from sceptical world powers demanding answers and to know the whereabouts of Khashoggi’s body.
The Saudi public prosecutor said he was making the latest assessment on the basis of evidence supplied by Turkey, which has been the source of a series of grisly revelations about the government critic’s death.
After first insisting Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, Saudi authorities said he was killed in an argument that degenerated into a brawl before finally accepting what Turkey had said virtually from the start that he was killed in a premeditated hit.
“Information from the Turkish authorities indicates that the act of the suspects in the Khashoggi case was premeditated,” the office of public prosecutor Sheikh Saud al-Mojeb said in a statement carried by the state-run Saudi Press Agency.
“The public prosecution continues its investigation with suspects… to complete the course of justice.”
As the Saudi public prosecutor made the new admission yesterday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Riyadh still needed to provide answers to remaining questions, such as who ordered the hit and what happened to Khashoggi’s body.
“Where is (the body)? You admit they did it, but why are they not saying (where)?” Cavusoglu said at a press conference in Ankara.
“His family also wants to know and pay their final tribute.”
The slow drip of Saudi admissions cast a pall over a showcase three-day investment forum that ended yesterday, with organisers putting a brave face on the array of no-shows among big-name guests.
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The Saudi energy minister said foreign companies which boycotted the Future Investment Forum (FII) had “apologised” and vowed a return to normal ties.
“Some companies abstained from the conference due to political pressure as a result of an odious campaign directed from outside the kingdom which has failed,” Khalid al-Falih told state-run Al-Ekhbariya news channel.