US intelligence report ‘to blame Saudi crown prince for murder of journalist Khashoggi’

Tom Batchelor
·2-min read
A Saudi court commuted five death sentences over the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, instead jailing eight defendants to between seven and 20 years, state media reported (AFP/Getty)
A Saudi court commuted five death sentences over the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, instead jailing eight defendants to between seven and 20 years, state media reported (AFP/Getty)

A US intelligence dossier compiled by the CIA and others is likely to conclude that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, according to reports.

The file, expected to be released later on Thursday, examines the killing inside the Saudi Consulate in Turkey in 2018.

Officials speaking to Reuters and NBC News said the report had concluded that the crown prince – Saudi Arabia’s 35-year-old de-facto ruler – approved and likely ordered the murder of Khashoggi, whose Washington Post column had been critical of the country’s leadership.

While the report is not new, with US intelligence agencies having worked on it since 2018, the release of a declassified summary will likely have ramifications for US-Saudi relations.

Joe Biden, the US president, said he had read the report and was expected to speak with King Salman, 85, father of the crown prince, before its findings were released.

Turkish officials allege Khashoggi was killed and then dismembered with a bone saw inside the consulate. His body has not been found.

The prince denies the allegations.

Saudi Arabia has admitted that Khashoggi was killed in a “rogue” extradition operation gone wrong, but denied any involvement by the crown prince.

Prosecutors in Riyadh convicted eight people for the brutal murder, including five men who were given the death penalty but had their sentences commuted to 20 years in jail after being forgiven by Khashoggi’s family.

Agnes Callamard, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, called the trial a “parody of justice” and, following a six-month investigation, said there was “sufficient credible evidence regarding the responsibility of the crown prince” to warrant further investigation”.

Speaking in October, she said: ”The five hitmen are sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, but the high-level officials who organised and embraced the execution of Jamal Khashoggi have walked free from the start – barely touched by the investigation and trial.

“As for the individual responsibility of the person on top of the State, the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has remained well protected against any kind of meaningful scrutiny in his country.”

The report’s release is part of Mr Biden’s policy to realign ties with Riyadh after years of the US withholding criticism of its Arab ally and major oil producer for it human rights record and intervention in Yemen’s civil war.

In 2018, the US senate passed a resolution saying the crown prince was responsible for Khashoggi’s murder, defying the then-president, Donald Trump, who had sought to maintain close relations with Saudi Arabia, including through lucrative weapons deals.

The Independent contacted the Saudi authorities for comment.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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