Prime Minister Theresa May told MPs today “we must get to the truth” of what happened to journalist Jamal Khashoggi, after Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister claimed the killing was a “rogue operation”.
Adel al-Jubeir said that those responsible will be held accountable for “this huge and grave mistake”.
He extended his condolences to the family of the journalist, while King Salman and the Crown Prince have both called Khashoggi’s son to express condolences.
“We can feel their pain and we wish this didn’t happen and I wish that this could have been avoided,” al-Jubeir said in an interview with Fox News.
His comments came as it was reported that Khashoggi‘s fiancee has been given 24-hour police protection.
Hatice Cengiz, a Turkish national, waited for the journalist outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul where he went to get papers for their planned marriage. She alerted authorities after the writer did not emerge from the building.
The journalist was allegedly killed by officials that allegedly included a member of the royal entourage.
Saudi Arabia finally admitted on Friday that its agents killed Khashoggi after he entered the consulate on 2 October, but denies that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman or King Salman were involved.
Theresa May told MPs today: “I am sure the whole House will join me in condemning the killing of Jamal Khashoggi in the strongest possible terms.
“We must get to the truth of what happened.”
The Prime Minister’s remarks in the Commons followed former foreign secretary Boris Johnson urging a robust response to Saudi Arabia.
Britain should “refuse to turn a blind eye” to the murder of the dissident journalist and pressure Saudi Arabia into ending the brutal civil war in Yemen, Johnson said in his Daily Telegraph column.
The former foreign secretary drew parallels between the Istanbul killing and the Novichok attack in Salisbury in March, calling them “state-sponsored plots” designed to “send a terrifying public warning” to opponents.
Reports emerged today saying a man appearing to wear Khashoggi‘s clothes can be seen on surveillance video leaving the Saudi consulate in Istanbul after he was killed there.
The footage appeared after it emerged a member of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s entourage made four calls to his office from the consulate the day Khashoggi disappeared, Turkish newspaper Yeni Safak reported.
CNN aired surveillance footage showing a man in Khashoggi‘s dress shirt, suit jacket and trousers. It cited a Turkish official as describing the man as a “body double” and a member of the Saudi team sent to Istanbul to target the writer.
The man is seen in the footage walking out of the consulate via its back exit with an accomplice, then taking a taxi to Istanbul’s famed Sultan Ahmed Mosque, where he went into a public toilet, changed back out of the clothes and left.
The state-run broadcaster TRT also reported that a man who entered the consulate building was seen leaving the building in Khashoggi‘s clothes.
In the days after Khashoggi vanished, Saudi officials initially said that he had left the consulate.
Turkish crime scene investigators arrived this afternoon at an underground car park in Istanbul where authorities earlier found a vehicle belonging to the Saudi consulate.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that he will “go into detail” about the Khashoggi case in a speech in parliament tomorrow, the same day a glitzy investment forum in Riyadh spearheaded by Prince Mohammed is to take place.
Turkish media reports and officials say a 15-member Saudi team flew to Istanbul, laid in wait for Khashoggi at the consulate and then cut off his fingers, killed and dismembered the 59-year-old writer.
“Why did these 15 people come here? Why were 18 people arrested? All of this needs to be explained in all its details,” Erdogan said.
Al-Jubeir echoed President Donald Trump’s warnings against rushing to judgement against Saudi leaders, saying “there is the presumption of innocence until proven guilty,” and that some have “turned that upside down”.
He added that Saudi officials do not know the whereabouts of Khashoggi‘s remains.
The Saudi kingdom has also said 18 suspects are in custody and that intelligence officials have been fired.
A bipartisan group of US lawmakers has accused the Crown Prince of directing the operation. South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said: “I find it impossible to believe that the Crown Prince was not involved.”
Trump said he would talk to the Crown Prince “very soon” before deciding what to do next.
He said he planned to consult with Congress to devise a response. “We’ll have an answer by probably Tuesday or so,” he said.
Trump has repeatedly said over the last week that he opposes any effort to impede more than $100bn in US arms sales to Saudi Arabia, but that he would consider sanctions on the kingdom.
On Friday, asked if he believed whether the Saudi explanation that Khashoggi was killed during a “fistfight” with more than a dozen agents was credible, he said: “I do. I do.”
But on Saturday, in an interview with The Washington Post, Trump said, “Obviously there’s been deception and there’s been lies.”
Khashoggi, a prominent journalist and royal court insider for decades in Saudi Arabia, had written columns critical of bin Salman and the kingdom’s direction while living in self-imposed exile in the US. He went to the Saudi consulate to obtain paperwork for his forthcoming marriage.
Picture: Middle East Monitor/Handout via Reuters