On Thursday, Saudi Arabia’s state media carried a message from the public prosecutor saying that new evidence suggests that the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was an act of “premeditated” murder. This new finding was a result, the public prosecutor asserts, of new information received from a joint Saudi-Turkish investigation.
This represents yet another dramatic shift in the Saudi story. When Khashoggi went missing on October 2 after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the Saudi government initially claimed he had left the consulate. But they were unable to provide information to verify this claim. Then the Saudi government floated the idea that Khashoggi was killed by rogue agents. Later, after international pressure, the Saudi government acknowledged that Khashoggi had died in the consulate but said it was the accidental result of a fistfight.
The new line comes closest to confirming Saudi government responsibility for the killing but it still leaves unanswered the question of who ordered the alleged assassination. It’s likely that the Saudi government will continue to maintain that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the effective leader of the nation, bears no personal responsibility.
The changing Saudi story comes as a result of the Turkish government repeatedly leaking information pointing towards Saudi government culpability.
As The New York Times reports, “President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Wednesday called Mr. Khashoggi’s killing ‘premeditated murder’ and asked a series of leading questions about who in Riyadh had ordered the operation. Turkish officials have leaked several details that point to premeditation, including the fact that a member of the Saudi team that flew to Istanbul resembled Mr. Khashoggi, dressed in his clothes and walked around Istanbul to create a false trail of security camera images that appeared to show the journalist alive.”