Saudi Arabia is seeking the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects it says were involved in the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the public prosecutor’s office said Thursday, while reiterating that the Crown Prince wasn’t behind the murder.
The five people were alleged to have been directly involved in "ordering and executing the crime,” deputy public prosecutor Shalaan bin Shalaan said at a press conference, without naming any of the accused.
He said the killing had been ordered by the head of the negotiating team who had been sent to Istanbul to ensure Khashoggi, a high-profile critic of the Saudi regime, returned from his self-imposed exile from the kingdom. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the powerful de facto ruler who Turkey has accused of ordering the killing, “did not have any knowledge about it,” he added.
The prosecutor’s office said Khashoggi was killed after negotiations for his return failed during a meeting at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
He was tied up and given a lethal injection following a struggle, before his body was dismembered and given to a local collaborator, the prosecutor said. Saudi prosecutors did not know the whereabouts of the body, he said.
Riyadh gave multiple conflicting accounts for the brutal murder, before eventually claiming Khashoggi was killed in a rogue operation. The killing has sparked a diplomatic crisis for the kingdom, a key Western ally in the Gulf.
In a bid to deflect scrutiny of the powerful Crown Prince, Riyadh has attempted to focus the blame on those around him. A top aide to the prince who briefed the “repatriation team” prior to their mission, Saud al-Qahtani, has been fired from the royal court and placed under a travel ban while investigations into his role continue, Shalaan said.
He said 11 of the 21 suspects in the case had now been indicted, while investigations into the remaining 10 would continue.
The Saudi prosecutor’s statements came a day after Turkey’s Foreign Minister said an international investigation into the killing was essential. “We will do whatever it takes to bring the murder to light,” Mevlut Cavusoglu told Parliament.