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'The sacrificial animal': UN report reveals details of Khashoggi's final moments

Using Turkish audio recordings, a UN investigator has assembled the most detailed narrative of journalist's death yet
Jamal Khashoggi enters the Saudi consulate on 2 October 2018 (Screengrab)

Less than ten minutes before Jamal Khashoggi stepped through the door of the Saudi consulate, the man apparently sent to kill him asked if the “sacrificial animal” had arrived.

The phrase, uttered by Maher al-Mutreb, a senior Saudi intelligence officer and the crown prince's bodyguard, is one of several new revelations of the Saudi journalist’s last moments revealed by a United Nations investigation using sound recordings provided by the Turkish authorities.

Khashoggi entered his country’s consulate on 2 October hoping to be handed documents that would allow him to marry the woman waiting for him outside.

However, the recordings reveal, inside were Saudi operatives planning his murder, dismemberment and disposal.

“Is it possible to place the trunk in a bag,” Mutreb, the leader of a 15-man hit squad sent from Riyadh, asked forensic pathologist Salah al-Tubaigy.

“No. Too heavy,” Tubaigy replied.

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The two went on to discuss the practicalities of cutting Khashoggi’s body into manageable pieces, a task Tubaigy suggested would “be easy”.

“Joints will be separated. It is not a problem. The body is heavy. First time I cut on the ground,” Tubaigy said.

“If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished. We will wrap each of them.”

UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard’s report, released on Wednesday, says references to leather bags and cutting skin can then be heard.

The forensic pathologist was apparently ill at ease. The UN report suggests Tubaigy was a last-minute addition, there with the express purpose of disposing of Khashoggi’s body.

“My direct manager is not aware of what I am doing,” Tubaigy said. “There is nobody to protect me.”

Soon after, Khashoggi arrived.

How could this happen in an embassy?

The recordings suggest that Khashoggi recognised someone in the consulate soon after he arrived. Middle East Eye has previously reported that this was Mutreb, who he knew from their time working at the Saudi diplomatic mission in London.

The Saudi journalist was invited to the second floor of the consulate, where the consul-general’s office was located.

Here the recordings suggest Khashoggi was probed over whether he would return to Saudi Arabia. Khashoggi had been living between Virginia and Istanbul in self-imposed exile since angering the royal court with his writings around two years before.

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“We will have to take you back. There is an order from Interpol. Interpol requested you to be sent back. We are coming to get you,” Khashoggi is told.

“There isn’t a case against me,” Khashoggi retorted. “I notified some people outside; they are waiting for me; a driver is waiting for me.”

Later, Khashoggi revealed that rather than a driver, his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, was waiting outside. He is repeatedly told, “Let’s make it short.”

Khashoggi is then asked if he was carrying any telephones, to which he replied, “Two phones.”

“Which brands?” he is asked. “Apple phones,” Khashoggi said.

“Send a message to your son,” a Saudi agent commanded.  “Which son?” Khashoggi asked. “What should I say to my son?”

There is then a pause, before the journalist is told: “You will type a message – let’s rehearse; show us.”

Again, Khashoggi asked what he should write. “See you soon? I can’t say kidnapping.” 

Mutreb then told him to take off his jacket, as Khashoggi said: “How could this happen in an embassy? I will not write anything.”

“Type it, Mr Jamal,” a member of the hit squad said.

“Hurry up. Help us so that we can help you because at the end we will take you back to Saudi Arabia and if you don’t help us you know what will happen at the end; let this issue find a good end.”

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Khashoggi then spotted a towel on the office’s floor. “Are you going to give me drugs?” he asked.

“We are going to anaesthetise you,” came the reply.

Callamard’s report then says sounds of a struggle can be heard, as well as the following statements: “Did he sleep?”  “He raises his head.”  “Keep pushing.”  “Push here; don’t remove your hand; push it.”

The report says intelligence officers from Turkey and elsewhere have suggested that Khashoggi was injected with a sedative and then suffocated with a plastic bag. Turkish intelligence noted to the UN investigator that there is also mention of a rope, though its use is disputed.

In the remainder of the recordings heard by the United Nations, sounds of movement and heavy panting can be heard, as well as plastic sheeting, likely wrapping.

Turkish authorities told Callamard that one particular sound was that of a saw being used to dismember Khashoggi. The UN investigator says she cannot reach a firm conclusion whether it is indeed a saw being used or not.

Callamard notes in her report that the UN was played just 45 minutes of an estimated seven hours of recordings that Turkey has.