Saudi prince gave direct order to silence Khashoggi – columnist

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave a direct order to silence dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi prior to his murder at the country’s consulate in Istanbul last month, according to Abdulkadir Selvi, a columnist for Turkey’s Hürriyet newspaper.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is in possession of a recording of a phone call featuring the crown prince in which he said Khashoggi should be silenced “as soon as possible”, Selvi said.

CIA Director Gina Haspel had hinted at the existence of a tape during a trip to Ankara last month, the columnist said. The wiretapped conversation was between Prince Mohammed and his brother Khaled Bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, he said.

The CIA has more wiretapped phone calls than the public is aware of, Selvi said.

“Apparently the crown prince gave an instruction to silence Jamal Khashoggi as soon as possible and the instruction was heard during the CIA wiretapping,” he said citing unidentified sources.

Selvi is a prominent Turkish columnist also known for his criticism of the Turkish government.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday that the United States would remain a “steadfast partner” of Saudi Arabia, despite admitting that the crown prince may have known about the plan to kill Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and supporter of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Trump said: “Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t” when asked if Prince Mohammed had a hand in the murder. The CIA, however, believes Khashoggi’s death was ordered directly by the crown prince, saying he is Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler.

Trump’s statements on the killing are comical, a close political ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday.

“It just isn’t possible for an intelligence agency such as the CIA, which even knows the colour of the fur on the cat walking around the Saudi consulate’s garden … to not know who gave this order,” said Numan Kurtulmuş, deputy head of Erdoğan’s governing party. “This is not credible either for U.S. public opinion or world public opinion.”

Trump has been asked to ascertain whether Prince Mohammed played a role in the murder of Khashoggi. Republican and Democratic leaders of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday sent a letter demanding a second investigation.