A United Nations investigator said Thursday after a fact-finding trip to Turkey that evidence in the death of U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi indicates that Saudi officials “planned and perpetrated” his killing.
“The evidence presented to us during the mission to Turkey demonstrates a prime facie case that Mr. Khashoggi was the victim of a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the State of Saudi Arabia and others acting under the direction of these State agents,” U.N. special rapporteur Agnes Callamard said in a statement.
Khashoggi, a Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist, was killed in October while at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.
The killing provoked global outrage, including from U.S. lawmakers, with the Senate in December passing a resolution naming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “responsible” for the slaying.
U.S. intelligence has reportedly concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed ordered the killing. Trump administration officials have publicly pushed back on those reports, and the crown prince has denied involvement.
Callamard, who said she confined her statement “to key issues that we have identified thus far,” did not mention the crown prince in the statement Thursday.
She traveled to Turkey at that government’s invitation from Jan. 28 to Feb. 3.
While there, Callamard said she had access to part of the “chilling and gruesome” audio of the killing collected by Turkish intelligence, but said that her team was not able to independently authenticate the recording.
She said she has also been promised access to the Turkish government’s “forensic, scientific and police reports.”
The U.N. investigator said she could not “firmly” determine whether the Saudis’ “original intention” was to abduct Khashoggi, with the killing only happening after that failed.
“What is abundantly clear is that much planning and preparation took place following Mr. Khashoggi’s initial visit to the consulate on 28 September,” she added.
She noted that three teams traveled to Turkey to carry out the operation, including a forensics doctor; a Khashoggi look alike was seen leaving the consulate; and Khashoggi’s body was also disposed of.
Turkey’s investigation, she said, was “seriously curtailed and undermined” by Saudi Arabia's refusal to allow immediate access to the crime scene.
Evidence shows that up to four attempts were made to “eliminate forensic evidence from the scene,” she said.
Callamard called it “unconscionable” that Saudi Arabia has yet to disclose the location of Khashoggi’s body, saying that “from an international human rights perspective, this means that Mr. Khashoggi was also subject to an enforced disappearance.”
The U.N. official also raised “major concerns” about the judicial process for the 11 people facing trial in Saudi Arabia for the killing, including a lack of transparency on who has been charged and the proceedings themselves.
“I have requested an official country visit to Saudi Arabia,” she said, “so that the authorities there can directly provide me with relevant evidence, their findings regarding the killing of Mr. Khashoggi and shed light on the prosecution and trial of the suspects, along with the basis for their denial of Turkey’s demands for extradition of the suspects.”