Signalling a major pivot in its narrative, Saudi Arabia yesterday said evidence shows that the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was premeditated, an apparent effort to ease international outrage over the death of a prominent critic of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi prosecutors cited Turkish evidence that the slaying was planned, contradicting a Saudi assertion just days ago that rogue officials from the kingdom killed him by mistake in a brawl inside their Istanbul consulate. That earlier assertion, in turn, backtracked from an initial statement that Saudi authorities knew nothing about what happened to the Washington Post columnist, who vanished after entering the consulate on October 2.
The shifting explanations indicate Saudi Arabia is scrambling for a way out of the crisis that has enveloped the world's largest oil exporter and a major US ally in the Middle East. But a solution seems a long way off, partly because of deepening scepticism in Turkey and elsewhere that the brazen crime could have been carried out without the knowledge of the crown prince, the kingdom's heir apparent.
Khashoggi's death has derailed the powerful prince's campaign to project a modern image of the ultraconservative country, instead highlighting the brutal lengths to which some top officials in the Government have gone to silence its critics. Khashoggi, who lived in self-imposed exile in the United States, had written critically of the prince's crackdown on dissent.
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A statement by Saudi Attorney General Saud al-Mojeb attributed the latest findings of a joint Turkish-Saudi investigation to information from Turkish counterparts.
Turkey, meanwhile, is pushing Saudi Arabia for more detail.
"Jamal Khashoggi's body still hasn't been found. Where is it?" Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said. "There is a crime here, but there is also a humanitarian situation. The family wants to know and they want to perform their last duty," Cavusoglu said, referring to hopes for a burial.