BataraNews.com- The crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, said he bears “all the responsibility” for the killing of a dissident writer by Saudi agents in Istanbul last year, but denied he had prior knowledge of the plot, according to a trailer for a documentary to be released next week.
The killing and dismemberment of the writer, Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul nearly a year ago shocked the world and damaged the reputation of Prince Mohammed, 34, and his efforts to diversify the Saudi economy away from oil.
It is unlikely that the comments by the prince, made in December, will alter the widespread belief that he had authorized the killing of a prominent Saudi writer who had criticized him in opinion articles in The Washington Post.
A C.I.A. assessment found that the prince, a son of the Saudi king and the country’s de facto ruler, had likely ordered the killing — a conclusion shared by many officials of the United States and other countries.Saudi officials have denied that Prince Mohammed had any prior knowledge of the operation against Mr. Khashoggi, and President Trump, who sees Prince Mohammed as key to his plans for the Middle East, has stood by him.
“It happened under my watch,” Prince Mohammed told Martin Smith, a reporter for the PBS program Frontline, according to a trailer released on Tuesday for a documentary to be aired on Oct. 1. “I get all the responsibility. Because it happened under my watch.”
Turkish and Saudi officials have described a complex operation that led to the killing of Mr. Khashoggi, who had fled waves of arrests of clerics and activists in Saudi Arabia as Prince Mohammed consolidated his power, to settle near Washington.
On Oct. 2 last year, Mr. Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul for an appointment to obtain a document he needed to marry his Turkish fiancée. He was met by 15 Saudi agents who had flown in hours earlier on government jets.
According to Turkish officials, one was a specialist in autopsies, who brought a bone saw. They killed and dismembered him, and disposed of his body, which has yet to be found.
Turkish officials and a United Nations investigator who examined the killing have accused the Saudis of an elaborate cover-up involving a body double and teams of technical experts who cleansed the crime scene before the Turks were given access.An autopsy expert. A lookalike. A black van. Our video investigation follows the movements of the 15-man Saudi hit team that killed and dismembered the journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
When asked how such an operation could take place without his knowledge, the prince said he could not stay abreast of every act in his country or government.
“We have 20 million people,” he said, according to the trailer. “We have 3 million government employees.”
The reporter asked if Saudi agents could use private government jets without his knowledge and he said they could.
“I have officials, ministers to follow things and they’re responsible, they have the authority to do that,” he said.
The conversation took place on the sidelines of an electric car race near the Saudi capital, Riyadh, in December, two months after Mr. Khashoggi’s killing.
The trailer for the documentary, “The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,” does not contain video or audio recordings of the prince. The quotes are recounted by Mr. Smith.His interview was one of a handful of times Prince Mohammed has spoken publicly about Mr. Khashoggi’s killing.
The day after it happened, he told reporters from Bloomberg that he did not know where Mr. Khashoggi was and that Saudi Arabia had “nothing to hide.”
At an investment conference he hosted later that month, Prince Mohammed called the killing “a terrible, unjustifiable event,” and promised that justice would be served.
The Saudis have put 11 suspects in the killing on trial and prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against five of them. But the court proceedings have been shrouded in secrecy. The Saudi have not named any of the suspects, and diplomats who have attended court sessions have been sworn to silence.
Absent among the suspects is Saud al-Qahtani, a powerful aide to Prince Mohammed who United States officials say oversaw the operation. Mr. al-Qahtani was removed from his position as an adviser to the royal court, but his status and whereabouts remain unclear.
In a report on the killing released in June, Agnes Callamard, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions for the United Nations human rights agency, said the Saudi trial had been
“clouded in secrecy and lacking in due process.”(Fahad Hasan&Bloomberg)