Skip to main content

'A killer walks free': Anger erupts over new images of sanctioned Saudi official

Ahmed al-Asiri, former deputy chief of Saudi intelligence, seen for first time since being sanctioned by the US over Jamal Khashoggi's murder
Ahmed al-Asiri
The images of Ahmed al-Asiri shared online have raised a number of questions (Screengrab/Twitter)

New images of Ahmed al-Asiri, Saudi Arabia's deputy head of military intelligence at the time of Jamal Khashoggi's murder, have triggered anger online after he was shown seemingly living a comfortable life despite being sanctioned by the US over the journalist's killing.

Asiri, a close ally of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), was shown sitting in an unidentified aircraft in pictures released on Thursday.

Khalid al-Jabri, the son of former intelligence operative Saad al-Jabri - who is locked in legal battles with MBS - slammed the timing of the photos, declaring "a killer walks free".

Khashoggi, a royal family insider turned critic, was killed and dismembered at Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul in 2018 while trying to retrieve personal paperwork.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


After initially insisting that Khashoggi, who wrote for the Washington Post and Middle East Eye, left the building alive, Saudi officials acknowledged more than two weeks after the murder that the journalist had been killed.

Riyadh has insisted the assassination was a rogue operation that happened without the approval of top officials.

The murder sent shockwaves throughout Washington, amplifying criticism of the kingdom in Congress, but then-president Donald Trump moved to shield Riyadh and particularly the crown prince from the fallout.

Last month, the US State and Treasury departments announced sanctions against dozens of Saudi individuals over their involvement in the Khashoggi murder and other rights violations.

The State Department unveiled new visa restrictions dubbed the "Khashoggi Ban" that would allow Washington to target "individuals who, acting on behalf of a foreign government, are believed to have been directly engaged in serious, extraterritorial counter-dissident activities".

The Treasury also imposed sanctions on several Saudi officials, including Ahmed al-Asiri, and members of the hit team that carried out the murder, known as the "Tiger Squad" or Rapid Intervention Force.

The sanctions came after the US issued a long-awaited intelligence report which concluded that bin Salman was ultimately responsible for the killing of Khashoggi. 

Translation: One of the individuals accused of killing Jamal Khashoggi, but where is he going?

Lina al-Hathloul, the sister of Loujain al-Hathoul, a women's rights activist who was released from a Saudi prison last month after spending over 1,000 days behind bars, also questioned where Asiri was travelling. 

In a tweet, she replied to the image, saying "where is he going?".

Some social media users suggested the photo had been carefully staged, alleging that such calculated moves were not strange for Saudi Arabia, often to show that bin Salman is still powerful.

Translation: For those who think that this photo is spontaneous, it is actually intended and the intelligence arranges such things to send a message to other parties. 

Others were also angered to see Asiri apparently travelling around, stating that justice needed to be served for Khashoggi's family. 

Translation: The murderous murderer goes around with comfort, yet the family of the deceased Jamal Khashoggi do not know where their father’s body is, and they live every day in confusion, distress and exhaustion. Your day will come, you criminals. 

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.