A timeline of how the Saudi narrative on Khashoggi evolved
A Saudi prosecutor told state media late on Friday that Jamal Khashoggi's murder in Istanbul had been premeditated, citing evidence provided by Turkish investigators.
The statement marked the latest shift in the Saudi narrative since the journalist vanished on 2 October after entering the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city.
Here's a breakdown of how the Saudi narrative has changed over a month and a half:
Hatice Cengiz, Khashoggi's fiancee, waits for him outside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. After three hours, she asks consulate staff where he is. She is told he has already left the building through a back door.
Saudi officials say Khashoggi left the premises before disappearing. Turkish officials, meanwhile, say he is still inside.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - commonly referred to as MBS - tells Bloomberg that Khashoggi is not inside the consulate, adding that he is not against a Turkish investigation taking place and searching the mission.
"My understanding is he entered and he got out after a few minutes or one hour. I'm not sure. We are investigating this through the foreign ministry to see exactly what happened at that time," the crown prince says.
Saudi officials open the consulate in Istanbul to Reuters journalists.
The consulate and embassy are working to search for him... we are worried about his case
- Saudi Consul-General Mohammad al-Otaibi
During their visit, Saudi Consul-General Mohammad al-Otaibi tells reporters: "I would like to confirm that... Jamal is not at the consulate nor in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and the consulate and the embassy are working to search for him... We are worried about his case."
Otaibi also says the consulate is equipped with cameras, but they did not record any footage the day of Khashoggi's disappearance.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency reports that an unidentified Saudi official from the consulate in Istanbul "dismisses" a Reuters report that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate.
"The official strongly denounced these baseless allegations, and expressed his doubt that they came from Turkish officials that are informed of the investigation or are authorised to comment on the issue," the report says.
In the statement, the official also says that "a security delegation of Saudi investigators arrived in Istanbul on Saturday based upon a request by the Saudi government".
The report concludes: "The source stressed that the kingdom holds the safety and well-being of its citizens wherever they are, and that relevant authorities in the kingdom are diligently following up on this matter to uncover the complete facts."
Axios reporter Jonathan Swan receives an unsolicited WhatsApp message from the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Khalid bin Salman, denying any allegations about Saudi governmental involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance.
"I assure you that the reports that suggest that Jamal Khashoggi went missing in the Consulate in Istanbul or that the Kingdom's authorities have detained him or killed him are absolutely false, and baseless," he said, according to a post Swan writes four days later.
Swan thanks him and asks whether there is footage of Khashoggi leaving the consulate.
"I'm still waiting for a reply," Swan writes on 12 October.
Similar versions of the ambassador's comments are reported in CNN on 9 October.
Saudi-owned media outlet Al-Arabiya reports that the Khashoggi case is riddled with "misreported news, dubious sources and orchestrated media campaigns".
According to the report, three key figures - Khashoggi's fiancee Hatice Cengiz, Turan Kislakci, the head of the Turkish-Arab Media Association, and Al Jazeera correspondent Jamal Elshayyal - are "exaggerating and embellishing the story with fake news to spark panic and place blame on Saudi authorities".
The following day, Al-Arabiya reports that 15 Saudis who arrived in Turkey on the same day Khashoggi disappeared - and whom Turkish officials say are suspected of being involved - are "tourists falsely accused of killing Khashoggi."
In a report by state-run Saudi Press Agency, Saudi Minister of the Interior Prince Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz denounces "false accusations circulated in some media on the Saudi government and people against the background of the disappearance of the Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi".
Claims that the journalist was killed he says are "lies and baseless allegations against the government of the kingdom, which is committed to its principles, rules and traditions and is in compliance with international laws and conventions".
With pressure from the international community growing, another official Saudi statement speaks out against "threats and attempts to undermine it," citing economic sanctions, "political pressure" and the repeating of "false accusations that... undermined the kingdom."
Pointing to the country’s "vital role in the global economy," the official promises it will respond to pressure: "The kingdom also affirms that if it receives any action, it will respond with greater action."
Separately, in an Al-Arabiya op-ed entitled "US sanctions on Riyadh would mean Washington is stabbing itself," Saudi journalist and commentator Turki Aldahkil writes: "All of this will throw the Middle East, the entire Muslim world, into the arms of Iran, which will become closer to Riyadh than Washington."
Other prominent Saudi figures stress that Aldahkil is speaking in a personal capacity.
A tweet urges users to "unfollow enemies of the nations" and used the hashtag
#كلنا_ثقه_في_محمد_بن_سلمان which translates to "we all have trust in Mohammed bin Salman." It has been retweeted 250,000 times.
On 18 October, Twitter reportedly pulls down a bot network that is pushing pro-Saudi talking points.
CNN reports that the Saudis are preparing to admit that Khashoggi died during an interrogation gone wrong.
The Saudi government releases another statement after a speech by former Saudi minister of justice Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Ibrahim Al Al-Sheikh at the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Geneva.
The Saudi Press Agency reports that Al-Sheikh "affirmed that misleading campaigns against the kingdom of Saudi Arabia will not impede the kingdom to commit its principles and values and will not affect its position at the Arab, Islamic and international arenas".
It also reports that he "lauded the positive stances expressed by a number of countries, figures, organizations and parliamentary councils not being influenced by rumors and fake news".
The New York Times reports that Saudi rulers are considering blaming Major General Ahmed al-Assiri, a top intelligence official close to MBS, for Khashoggi's killing.
In a statement on a Saudi state television report, the country's chief prosecutor says that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate when a fight broke out.
A Saudi official tells Reuters that MBS had no knowledge of any operation that killed Khashoggi: "There were no orders for them to kill him or even specifically kidnap him."
Another Saudi official subsequently said Khashoggi had died as a result of a chokehold.
Several high-level figures, including Assiri and MBS's close adviser Saud al-Qahtani, are dismissed.
In a statement to Saudi state media, the prosecutor says that Khashoggi's murder was premeditated. "Information from the Turkish authorities indicates that the act of the suspects in the Khashoggi case was premeditated," he said.
In a statement saying Saudi Arabia was seeking the death penalty against five unnamed individuals in the Khashoggi case, Saudi's deputy public prosecutor said sacked deputy chief of Saudi intelligence, Ahmed al-Assiri, had formed a team that planned to repatriate the journalist, but the leader of the mission decided to kill him when he was not convinced to return.
Saudi defendants in the killing, he adds, presented "a false report" to Assiri and again asserts that someone handed over Khashoggi's dismembered body to a local accomplice.
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