Two years after he was chopped up in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Jamal Khashoggi’s executioners walk free.
The 15-member Saudi death squad was sent from Riyadh at the express orders of crown prince Muhammad bin Salman (MbS).
As soon as Khashoggi walked into the Saudi consulate, the butchers went to work.
He was first strangled with a plastic bag over his head although some reports say that Khashoggi had not died yet before they started cutting him into pieces using a bone saw.
Turkish intelligence agents secretly recorded the whole sordid affair that was too gruesome even by Saudi standards.
Two days after the October 2, 2018 murder, voice recording of Khashoggi’s last moments—his screams, suffocation and dismemberment—were made available to the world, including the American intelligence agency, CIA.
The 15-mmber Saudi death squad was led by Saud al-Qahtani, a personal aide of Saudi crown prince Muhammad bin Salman (MbS).
Khashoggi’s body was chopped up by the CIA-trained notorious ‘torture-pathologist’, Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy.
The butchers had arrived in Istanbul on two private jets a few hours before the macabre ritual was performed inside the consulate.
In the voice recording, al-Tubaigy is heard as saying, “we have to cut him on the floor since he is too heavy (referring to Khashoggi) to lift to the table.”
The sound of rustling as if plastic sheets are being spread can be clearly heard.
Khashoggi’s chopped-up body was then made to disappear, either by burning or by dissolving in acid.
An employee at the consulate admitted that he was asked to light up the oven in the building.
Despite the ongoing publicity surrounding his brutal murder, Khashoggi was no revolutionary or real dissident.
He was a loyal insider who had also served as advisor to the Saudi regime.
So why so much hoopla about Khashoggi’s murder, gruesome as it was, when the Saudi regime routinely indulges in the killings of innocent Yemenis?
Nearly 100,000 Yemenis have been murdered since 2015.
More than one million Yemeni children are suffering from cholera as a direct result of the Saudi siege preventing desperately needed medicines from reaching the afflicted.
The UN has dubbed it as the “worst humanitarian catastrophe” in history.
So, with such a gory Saudi record, why is the world shocked at Khashoggi’s murder two years ago?
Several factors can be cited for such intense focus.
First, diplomatic missions cannot be turned into butchers’ shops.
Second, since his self-exile in early 2017, Khashoggi used to write a weekly column for the Washington Post.
Apart from occasional mild criticism of the ruling family, he revealed nothing earth-shattering.
His two deadly sins were that as a former insider, he was privy to many sordid details of the Saudi royals and, he was sympathetic to the Ikhwan (Muslim Brotherhood).
Most Arabian regimes—the Saudis, Emiratis, Egyptians etc—have declared war on the Ikhwan.
They are viewed as a threat—quite rightly—to the long-term rule of these dinosaurs.
Through his weekly column in the Washington Post, Khashoggi was beginning to soften the US officials’ hostility toward the Ikhwan.
He had to be eliminated. And the order came directly from MbS.
Their chopping job done at the consulate the Saudi killer squad left Istanbul.
Critics quickly dubbed MbS as ‘Mr. Bone Saw’ for the manner in which Khashoggi’s body was cut up!
Initially, the Saudis insisted Khashoggi had left the consulate.
MbS told Bloomberg News that the journalist had left the consulate “after a few minutes or one hour”.
“We have nothing to hide,” he added.
By October 20, the Saudis changed their story.
With evidence piling up that Khashoggi had been murdered inside the consulate, the regime belatedly admitted that their “investigation” found that he was killed in a “rogue operation”.
On November 15, Saudi deputy public prosecutor Shalaan al-Shalaan admitted the murder was ordered by the head of the “negotiations team”.
It was sent to Istanbul by the Saudi deputy intelligence chief to bring Khashoggi back to the kingdom “by means of persuasion” or, if that failed, “by force”.
Shalaan further stated that his body was dismembered and handed over to a local “collaborator” outside the consulate for disposal.
While five individuals had confessed to the murder, according to Shalaan, he was at pains to distance MbS from the murder.
“[The crown prince] did not have any knowledge about it.”
Only the very naive would accept such a statement.
In the medieval kingdom, even minor decisions cannot be taken without MbS’ approval.
How a high-profile journalist, one working for the Washington Post, could be murdered inside the Saudi consulate by “rogue elements” without MbS approval?
And what happened to those “rogue elements”?
The Saudi public prosecution said a total of 31 individuals were investigated over the killing and 21 of them were arrested.
Five senior government officials were also sacked, including Deputy Intelligence Chief Ahmad Asiri and Saud al-Qahtani, a senior aide to MbS.
In January 2019, 11 individuals were put on trial (without naming them) at the Criminal Court of Riyadh in connection with Khashoggi’s murder.
The public prosecutor sought the death penalty for five of them.
In December 2019, the court sentenced five individuals to death for “committing and directly participating in the murder of the victim”.
Three others were handed prison sentences while the remaining three were found ‘not guilty’.
Asiri was acquitted “due to insufficient evidence”, while Qahtani was investigated over the killing but not charged.
The UN’s Special Rapporteur for Extra-Judicial killings, Agnes Callamard dismissed Saudi assertions as “utterly ridiculous” and said the trial represented “the antithesis of justice”, from which the “masterminds” walked free.
Ms Callamard insisted there was sufficient evidence to investigate Saudi crown prince for ordering the execution.
Human Rights Watch said the trial, which took place behind closed doors, did not meet international standards and that the authorities “obstructed meaningful accountability”.
But Khashoggi’s son Salah, who lives in Saudi Arabia, tweeted: “We affirm our confidence in the Saudi judiciary at all levels, that it has been fair to us and that justice has been achieved.”
He was almost certainly coerced into making this statement. Three weeks after their father’s brutal murder, he and his brother were forced to meet MbS. All the perfumes of Arabia could not wash the pong of hypocrisy that emanated from the meeting.
Their facial expressions captured on camera clearly showed they were unhappy in meeting and shaking hands with the person who ordered the murder of their father.
In May 2020, Salah Khashoggi announced that he and his brothers were “pardoning those who killed our father, seeking reward from God almighty”.
There can be no greater proof of MbS’ involvement otherwise why would Khashoggi’s children make such statements?
Why would MbS be so anxious to have them pardon their father’s killers unless he has something to hide?