Khashoggi murder planned by Saudi officials – U.N.

Saudi officials planned the murder of Saudi journalist and activist Jamal Khashoggi, a United Nations-led inquiry concluded.

“Mr. Khashoggi was the victim of a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the State of Saudi Arabia,” Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur for extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, said in a statement issued in Geneva, Switzerland on Thursday.

A mission to Turkey between Jan. 28 and Feb. 3 “could not firmly establish whether the original intention was to abduct Mr. Khashoggi, with his murder planned only in the eventuality of this abduction failing,” Callamard said.

The killing of Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2 provoked widespread international condemnation and tarnished the image of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was known for his reformism, including allowing Saudi women to drive.

The Saudi government seriously undermined a Turkish investigation into the murder, including delaying access to consular buildings and cleaning up crime scenes, Callamard said. Those actions compromised the production by Turkish police of telling evidence, she said.

Saudi Arabia sent three teams to carry out the operation, who included a forensic doctor and a lookalike of Khashoggi, who was filmed leaving the consulate. Saudi Arabia also disposed of his body and allowed the teams to flee Turkey, Callamard said.

“Woefully inadequate time and access was granted to Turkish investigators to conduct a professional and effective crime-scene examination and search required by international standards for investigation,” she said.

Saudi Arabia says 11 people have been indicted for the crime and referred to stand trial. The death sentence is being sought for five of them.

Callamard said she had serious concerns about the fairness of trial proceedings and had sought to travel to Saudi Arabia on an official visit. Riyadh has so far denied Ankara’s requests to transfer the suspects to Turkey.

The final report by Callamard will be presented to the U.N. Human Rights Council in June, along with recommendations for formal criminal accountability.