Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor’s office said Thursday that it is seeking the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects charged in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi while exonerating the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS).
The deputy prosecutor Shaalan al-Shaalan told reporters that Khashoggi was killed by a lethal injection after a struggle in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Jamal Khashoggi, a dissident journalist from Saudi Arabia and Washington Post columnist went into a self-imposed exile to the United States one year ago, when the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman started his widespread crackdown on dissenters.
He went to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to get papers for his marriage and never returned. Turkey maintained that the kingdom’s officials killed him inside the consulate which Saudi Arabia denied.
After three weeks of denial, the kingdom accepted that Khashoggi was killed in the consulate but claimed the crown prince had no knowledge of the ‘rogue operation’ conducted by 15 high-profile Saudi officials who flew to Turkey the same day Khashoggi went to the consulate.
Shaalan said that de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew nothing of the operation, in which Khashoggi's body was dismembered and handed over to an unidentified "local cooperator." The whereabouts of Khashoggi's remains are still unknown.
According to the deputy prosecutor's version, the Washington Post columnist was murdered after "negotiations" for his repatriation to the kingdom failed; the order was allegedly given by the head of the Saudi negotiating team.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the order for the operation came from the highest level of Saudi leadership but probably not King Salman, putting the spotlight on his 33-year-old heir. U.S. President Donald Trump has suggested ultimate responsibility lies with the prince as the de facto ruler.
Some details provided Thursday again contradicted previous versions, none of which mentioned a drug-induced death.
The U.S. Treasury will announce Thursday sanctions on 17 Saudis for their role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an unknown source told Reuters.