Khashoggi Disappearance: Outrage Over Missing Journalist

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jamal khashoggi

A Saudi Arabian man wished to marry his Turkish fiance’ but first had to obtain a document certifying that the two could marry. What happened next was a gruesome murder that caught the attention of nations across the world. Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi Arabian journalist and Washington Post contributor, disappeared on Oct. 2. He was last seen entering the Saudi Arabia consulate in Turkey. His fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, waited outside.

Khashoggi and Cengiz had plans to marry, and Khashoggi had gone to the consulate to obtain documents that certified that the couple could marry each other. Surveillance footage at the consulate showed Khashoggi walking inside. No footage has been seen of him leaving.

Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist who was critical of the regime that rules Saudi Arabia, particularly of domestic policies enforced by  Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. For example, in an opinion column written for the Washington Post in 2017, Khashoggi wrote about arrest tactics used by Bin Salman’s regime to intimidate dissidents.

According to a CNN report published on Oct. 11, friends of Khashoggi said the Saudi-government and pro-Saudi government think tanks tried to convince Khashoggi that it was safe to return to his home country. According to one friend, officials at the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C. would treat him nicely while trying to convince him it was safe to return.

In a report published on Oct. 10, the Washington Post said that the crown prince tried to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia, according to information intercepted by U.S. intelligence. Bin Salman offered Khashoggi a high-level job working for the government, and protection. Khashoggi never accepted that offer.

The revelation that the crown prince tried to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia makes his disappearance even more bizarre. The last time he was seen was in surveillance footage entering the Saudi Arabian consulate in Turkey.

In fact, Turkey has said it has proof that Khashoggi was killed, in the form of audio and video recordings. U.S. government officials told the Washington Post on Oct. 11 that Turkish investigators claim they have recordings that prove that Khashoggi was murdered, and his body dismembered, while he was inside the consulate.

The Daily Sabah, a Turkish newspaper, published a report on Oct. 11 that said 15 Saudis flew to Istanbul on private jets to target Khashoggi. That Daily Sabah’s sister publication, the Sabah, revealed the identities of the 15 Saudis. One of the men, Salah Muhammad Tubaigy, has been identified as a forensics expert who works at the Forensic Medicine department of Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry. According to Turkish media reports, he was tasked with cleaning up evidence at the scene of Khashoggi’s murder.  

Saudi Arabia has denied that they have any involvement with Khashoggi’s disappearance, and have said that he left the consulate the same day, though there is no surveillance footage of him leaving. Turkish officials have said they have an audio recording of the alleged killing of Khashoggi. The audio is said to be from the Apple Watch he wore when he entered the consulate.

Turkey’s government told U.S. officials that they have both audio and video evidence of Khashoggi’s killing. According to one U.S. official, the Turkish government’s evidence shows Khashoggi being detained, interrogated, then killed and dismembered. The Turkish government’s possession of the evidence was first reported by the Washington Post.

What also has been revealed is plans by the Saudis to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia. According to one U.S. official, as CNN reports, U.S. intelligence has intercepts of Saudi officials discussing a plan to get Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia. That same U.S. official said it is unclear if the original plan was to murder Khashoggi, or if a plan to kidnap him at the consulate went foul. Also according to the same U.S. official, there is no hard evidence if Khashoggi is dead or alive.

The White House and Republicans in Congress have already been at odds over relations with Saudi Arabia, specifically, over the Saudis bombing Houthi rebels in Yemen. Saudi Arabia’s alleged involvement in Khashoggi’s involvement has created another rift between Republican lawmakers and President Donald J. Trump.

In 2017, the U.S. sealed an arms deal with Saudi Arabia that is worth $350 billion over 10 years, with $110 billion paid to the U.S. almost immediately. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) called on the president to halt the arms deal.

“The Saudis will keep killing civilians and journalists as long as we keep arming and assisting them,” Paul said in a tweet on Oct. 11. “The President should immediately halt arms sales and military support to Saudi Arabia.”

Trump told reporters the same day that he would not be in favor of “stopping a country from spending $110 billion which is an all-time record — and letting Russia have that money and letting China have that money.”

Trump also told reporters that he doesn’t like the situation and said it was “no good.” He said he and his administration are working with officials from Saudi Arabia and Turkey to find out what happened.

Trump did an interview with “60 Minutes,” which aired on Oct. 14 on CBS, where he said there would be “severe punishment” for Saudi Arabia if it were found that they murdered Khashoggi. What that punishment could be has not been specified.

Trump continued to show confidence in Saudi Arabia’s claims that they had no involvement with Khashoggi’s disappearance. On Oct. 15, he told reporters that Salman gave him a “flat denial,” and then Trump suggested to reporters that the job could have been done by “rogue killers.”

That same day, news reports said that Saudi Arabia was preparing a statement saying exactly that. Saudi Arabia was preparing to say that Khashoggi’s disappearance was the result of a botched interrogation at the consulate. That interrogation, conducted without clearance or transparency, was to lead to Khashoggi’s abduction. Perhaps, Trump’s “rogue killers” comments were either a theory he heard from the Saudis, or it was his own theory and gave the Saudis to use as a possibility.

Several news outlets reported that Trump sent Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to Riyadh to meet with the crown prince. After leaving Riyadh, Pompeo traveled to Ankara to meet with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

After his meeting with Salman, Pompeo spoke with reporters and told them that Saudi Arabia is committed to holding senior officials accountable if they are implicated in Khashoggi’s disappearance.

“They made a commitment to hold anyone connected to any wrongdoing that may be found accountable for that, whether it be an official or a senior official,” Pompeo said, according to NBC News. However, Pompeo did not say Saudi royals knew anything about Khashoggi’s whereabouts, insisting that wanted to complete the investigation before disclosing any information.

Saudi Arabia is facing consequences from their suspected involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance. The country is hosting a high-profile investment summit, called the Future Investment Initiative, later this month.

According to the event’s official website, the Future Investment Initiative will serve as a platform to drive expert-led debate, discussion, and partnerships among leaders in business, government and civil society. It is a three-day program that “continue to shape the future of global investment.”

News outlets that had agreed to sponsor the event have now pulled out, including CNN, Bloomberg, The New York Times and the Financial Times. Viacom CEO Bob Bakish and Uber chief Dara Khosrowshahi have pulled out of the event. Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief of The Economist, has also said pulled out.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters that he will still attend the event “for now.” International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde originally told reporters at the IMF’s annual meeting in Indonesia that she still planned to go, but will be paying close attention to new information. Her position changed, according to a report from CNN on Oct. 17, and she said she was not attending the event.

You can read more from Mike Ursery on Think Liberty here.

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