More than three weeks after the death of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman made his first public statement about it Wednesday, painting it as a national tragedy and vowing to “investigate deeply.”
Speaking at an investor conference he’s hosting in Riyadh this week, the crown prince criticized those trying to use the alleged Oct. 2 murder to “drive a wedge” between Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and said Khashoggi’s death is “painful to all Saudis.”
“Saudi Arabia will go and implement all necessary rules and investigate deeply in order to achieve results. And to bring to justice those who were responsible for this heinous crime and they will be put before the courts. There's no doubt," the crown prince said, according to CNN.
The Saudi royal family has continuously changed and contradicted its own story on how the Washington Post columnist and U.S. resident entered a Saudi consulate in Istanbul and died shortly after. They’ve insisted that the crown prince didn’t order his murder, although Khashoggi was a prominent critic of the royal family. The Saudi government at one point said he died in a “fistfight in the consulate,” despite Turkish sources reporting he was beheaded and dismembered by an assassination squad of 15 men, including some of the royal security team. Their latest account relays a Saudi intelligence team that planned to hold Khashoggi against his will, but then killed him on accident. Close observers say such an action would never have been possible without the prince’s knowledge.
In a staged photo-op Tuesday, the crown prince met with Khashoggi’s son, who is reportedly barred from leaving the kingdom.
President Trump, after waffling on addressing Khashoggi’s death and while still saying he wants to believe the Saudis, called the murder the “worst cover-up in history” on Tuesday. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech Tuesday that an assassination squad planned and executed the “vicious, violent murder” of Khashoggi, and scrutinized the accounts of the crown prince.
Business leaders from the U.S. and around the world pulled out of the Saudi investment conference over the Khashoggi death, and various countries are reconsidering arms deals with the Saudis. Amid calls from some U.S. lawmakers for a re-assessment of the U.S. relationship with the kingdom, the State Department said it will revoke the U.S. visas of 21 Saudi officials as punishment. But it did not name the 21 officials.