Saudi Arabia rejected allegations that the powerful crown prince gave the order to kill Jamal Khashoggi, as a Turkish website released the first quotes from audio tapes purportedly of the dissident journalist’s last moments.
“We, in the kingdom, know that such allegations about the crown prince are totally unfounded, and we reject them categorically,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told Asharq al-Awsat daily in an interview published on Tuesday.
According to recent US media reports, the Central Intelligence Agency has concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s murder. The Saudi government has denied the claim.
The Washington Post columnist and critic of the crown prince was killed on October 2 in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Al-Jubeir said the reports were “leaks … based on assessments and not conclusive evidence.”
“I would like to emphasize that the leadership of Saudi Arabia … is a red line,” al-Jubeir said, while talking about King Salman and his son. “We will not allow attempts to undermine our leadership, from any party and under any pretext.”
“Justice in this case is a Saudi demand, before it is an international demand,” al-Jubeir added.
On Friday, the crown prince will start a regional tour before heading to Argentina for a G20 summit, a diplomatic source in Riyadh said.
This will be Mohammed’s first trip outside the kingdom since Khashoggi’s killing. At the G20, he will come face to face with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has said that the order to kill Khashoggi “came from the highest levels of the Saudi government.”
Saudi prosecutors claim that a team of specialist assassins was sent to Istanbul by top-level Saudi government members to carry out the murder. They have since called for the death penalty for five of those alleged to have been involved, out of a total of 11 charged.
Khashoggi’s remains have not been located.
Meanwhile, Turkish news website Haberturk released the first quotes from audio tapes purportedly of Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate.
“Release my arm! What do you think you are doing?” Haberturk quotes Khashoggi as saying. He was reportedly met by four people, one of whom grabbed his arm as soon as he entered the consulate, Haberturk said.
The four take Khashoggi to the administrative ‘B unit,’ of the consulate. Three more people join them here, including one whom Haberturk claims was Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, the alleged leader of the 15-man “execution squad.” One other person is identified as Saudi Consul General Mohammad al-Otaibi.
“Traitor! You will be brought to account,” Mutreb is heard shouting, according to Haberturk.
The rest of the audio includes what Haberturk describes as verbal fighting, brawling and torture.
It claims that 19 phone calls are made to Saudi Arabia from the ‘C unit,’ which houses the consul’s office, with four of them apparently between Mutreb and Saud al-Qahtani, a close adviser to Mohammed who was formally relieved of his post last month.
Turkish authorities do not have recordings from the ‘C unit,’ where Khashoggi body’s is alleged to have been dismembered, according to Haberturk, adding that there is no recording of the actual killing.
At one point the recording cites Saudi engineer Mustafa al-Modaini as saying: “It is creepy that I am wearing the clothes of a man whom we killed 20 minutes ago.”
Haberturk claimed the walls of three rooms in ‘C unit’ were painted immediately after the murder.
Turkish authorities have been selectively leaking information on the case to local and foreign media, including about the contents of the alleged audio recordings.
While the United States last week imposed sanctions on 17 individuals who it said were part of an “operations team” involved in the murder, Germany has imposed an entry ban on 18 Saudi citizens.
France is also planning sanctions against Saudi Arabia, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told Europe 1 radio late Monday.
Al-Jubeir in his interview criticized the decisions by several countries to impose sanctions, saying that the measures are targeting individuals and not the political and economic interests of Saudi Arabia and its allies.