U.N. report: Saudi government responsible for Khashoggi death

Protesters demonstrate outside the White House to call attention to the disappearance and death of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi, in Washington, D.C. on October 19, 2018. File Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI

June 19 (UPI) — A United Nations investigative report issued Wednesday into the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi blames high-level Saudi officials, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

U.N. Human Rights Commission rapporteur Agnes Callamard spent months investigating the Oct. 2 death of the Washington Post columnist at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Though she didn’t find a “smoking gun” to incriminate bin Salman, the report said he’s played a key role in repressing dissidents and concludes he had to know of the plot.

Riyadh has focused its investigation on 11 unnamed Saudis who are on trial behind closed doors and has taken “timid steps” to prosecute the suspects, the report said. Callamard called it a miscarriage of justice and for the trial to be suspended.

“It is the conclusion of the special rapporteur that Mr. Khashoggi has been the victim of a deliberate, premeditated execution, an extrajudicial killing for which the state of Saudi Arabia is responsible under international human rights law,” the report said.

“Evidence points to the 15-person mission to execute Mr. Khashoggi requiring significant government coordination, resources and finances,” the report said. “While the Saudi government claims that these resources were put in place by Ahmed Asiri, every expert consulted finds it inconceivable that an operation of this scale could be implemented without the Crown Prince being aware, at a minimum, that some sort of mission of a criminal nature, directed at Mr. Khashoggi, was being launched.”

Asiri is the former deputy head of intelligence and the only senior official on trial in the killing.

Saudi officials refused to allow Callamard to visit Saudi Arabia or conduct interviews there.

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Callamard’s report doesn’t cite any evidence that U.S. intelligence knew about the plot to lure Khashoggi to the consulate, where investigators believe a hit team ambushed and tortured him. An audio tape recorded inside the consulate includes a conversation between Dr. Salah Tubaigy, a forensic expert, and Maher Mutreb, a Saudi agent, where they discussed dismembering the “sacrificial animal.” Khashoggi’s name was never mentioned.

“Joints will be separated,” Tubaigy said, according to the report. “First time I cut on the ground. If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished.”

He goes on to say, “my direct manager is not aware of what I am doing. There is no one to protect me.”

Once Khashoggi arrives, he’s led to the consul general’s office and members of the team said they had an Interpol warrant for him. He’s told to send a text message to his fiancee, who was waiting outside.

“What should I say?” Khashoggi asked. “See you soon? I can’t say kidnapping. I will not write anything.”

“Type it Jamal,” one of the agents replied. “Hurry up. Help us so that we can help you because at the end we will take you back to Saudi Arabia and if you don’t have us you know what will happen at the end; let this issue find a good end.”

Khashoggi can be heard saying, “There is a towel here. Are you going to give me drugs?”

“We will anesthetize you,” one of the agents answered.

Sounds of a struggle and heavy panting are heard on the tape. It’s possible Khashoggi was given a sedative and then suffocated with a plastic bag, the report said.

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