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UN Says Evidence Suggests Saudi Prince Knew of Khashoggi's Killing

2019-6-19

An independent report into the murder of Saudi reporter Jamal Khashoggi says there is “credible evidence” of possible involvement by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The United Nations report said the evidence supports the need for a continued investigation. It also suggested that sanctions be ordered on the Prince’s personal finances and property.

The report is likely to harden opinion against the crown prince among many Western governments. Critics say an operation of this size would have required the prince’s knowledge.

The 33-year-old Saudi prince denies any involvement in the killing. He continues to have the support of his father, King Salman. Saudi Arabia has blamed Saudi agents for independently killing the reporter.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

UN human rights expert Agnes Callamard wrote the report. It said that The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible for Khashoggi’s killing.

Khashoggi criticized the crown prince. He is believed to have been killed and cut up into pieces inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul by Saudi agents. His remains have not been found. Before his death, he had been living in the United States, near Washington, D.C. He wrote for the Washington Post and other news media. He left Saudi Arabia after a campaign against activists and critics of its rulers.

Callamard’s report also says there is “credible evidence pointing to the crime scenes (in Turkey) having been thoroughly, even forensically, cleaned.” This, the report says, suggests that Saudi Arabia’s own investigation was not carried out honestly.

There is “no reason why sanctions should not be applied against the Crown Prince and his personal assets” the report says. It notes that, in the past, sanctions have been ordered even before findings of guilt have been established.

UN report details the killing

The report also offers a minute-by-minute account of the events surrounding the killing based on audio recordings provided by Turkish officials. It notes the sounds of an electric tool were heard. The tool could have been used to cut up Khashoggi’s body.

It noted the “extreme sensitivity” of considering the criminal responsibility of the crown prince and his former adviser Saud al-Qahtani. Neither man has been charged.

“No conclusion is made as to guilt,” Callamard wrote of the two men. “The search for justice and accountability is not singularly dependent on finding a ‘smoking gun’ or the person holding it.”

She wrote that her examination was mainly to identify those who may have failed in or abused their positions of power.

The report also identified by name 15 suspects, of which 11 are on trial in Saudi Arabia. Five of those on trial may face execution under Saudi law.

Saudi Arabia has not released the names of those on trial and has kept trial activities mostly secret.

The U.N. report says the current trial of the 11 suspects in Saudi Arabia should be suspended because it fails to meet international rules. Callamard noted the trial is being held secretly. She also wrote that at least one person identified as responsible for the planning and organizing of the killing of Khashoggi has not been charged.

While some diplomats have been permitted to attend some of the Saudi court hearings, they were barred from speaking about them, she noted.

Callamard noted limitations on her examination, which began in January. She received no answer to her request to travel to Saudi Arabia. She also wrote that she had received only 45 minutes of tapes recorded within the consulate around the time of the killing. Turkish intelligence had said they had about seven hours of recordings.

Callamard also reported there was not enough evidence to suggest that either Turkey or the United States knew, or should have known, of an immediate threat to Khashoggi’s life.

The U.S. State Department has publicly named 16 people it says had a part in the killing of Khashoggi. Many U.S. lawmakers have criticized President Donald Trump for not condemning Saudi Arabia for the reporter’s killing.

I’m Ashley Thompson.

And I'm Jonathan Evans.

Jamey Keaten and Aya Batrawy reported this story for the Associated Press. Caty Weaver adapted the story for VOA Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

credible - adj. able to be believed : reasonable to trust or believe

sanctions - n. an action that is taken or an order that is given to force a country to obey international laws by limiting or stopping trade with that country, by not allowing economic aid for that country, etc. — usually plural

consulate - n. the building where a consul lives and works

scenes - n. the place of an event or action

forensics - n. the study or science of solving crimes by using scientific knowledge or methods

conclusion - n. a final decision or judgment

smoking gun - n. a piece of evidence that clearly proves who did something or shows how something happened