While President Trump would love it if the Western media, along with prominent executives in tech and finance, would buy Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s claims that he had “no knowledge” of the confrontation at the Saudis’ consulate in Istanbul that’s believed to have precipitated the killing of insider-turned-Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, yet more evidence has emerged this morning to contradict the official Saudi narrative.
Trial balloons floated by the kingdom in the Western press, as well as Trump’s own suggestions, point to “rogue operatives”, but in a story published last night, the New York Times managed to corroborate Turkish officials’ claims that several suspected members of the 15-man ‘hit squad’ have been directly linked with MbS.
And now, in what has been billed as the first glimpse of the grisly circumstances of Khashoggi’s murder, the Middle East Eye and the Wall Street Journal have reported that “it took seven minutes for Khashoggi to die.”
But in what was probably the most gruesome details from the report, MEM reported that Dr. Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, who was identified by the Times and other media outlets as an “autopsy expert” whose presence cuts against Saudis’ suggestions that the killing wasn’t premeditated, started cutting Khashoggi’s body into pieces while the journalist was unconscious, but still breathing. Previously, Khashoggi had been knocked unconscious after being injected with a mysterious substance.
MEM attributed its information to a person who had listened to the Turkish government’s recording of the murder (its agents had apparently bugged the Saudi consulate, which is unsurprising given the tense relations between the two Muslim powers that only deteriorated during last year’s Qatari crisis). That recording, which hasn’t been publicly shared, has served as the basis for dozens of media reports about Khashoggi’s death. According to this source, after arriving at the consulate, Khashoggi was dragged from the consul-general’s office at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul into his study next door, before being pinned down on the table and injected with an unknown substance. During the attack, horrifying screams were heard by witnesses.
After Khashoggi had been knocked unconscious (never to awaken again), al-Tubaigy put on his headphones and started the grim process of dismembering the body with a bone saw.
Tubaigy began to cut Khashoggi’s body up on a table in the study while he was still alive, the Turkish source said. The killing took seven minutes, the source said.
As he started to dismember the body, Tubaigy put on earphones and listened to music. He advised other members of the squad to do the same.
“When I do this job, I listen to music. You should do [that] too,” Tubaigy was recorded as saying, the source told MEE.
A three-minute version of the audio tape has been given to Turkish newspaper Sabah, but they have yet to release it.
A Turkish source told the New York Times that Tubaigy was equipped with a bone saw. He is listed as the president of the Saudi Fellowship of Forensic Pathology and a member of the Saudi Association for Forensic Pathology.
According to WSJ, voices on the tapes can be heard asking the Saudi consul to leave his office before the hit squad murdered Khashoggi. The consul, Mohammad al-Otaibi, departed Turkey for Riyadh Tuesday afternoon after the Saudis, in a sudden reversal, denied Turkey’s requests to search Otaibi’s residence, saying his home was off limits to investigators.
Should other media organizations confirm these reports (which has become a pattern since Khashoggi disappeared into the consulate on Oct. 2 after being asked to return to pick up a marriage license), calls for sanctions, an arms sales ban – or even the deposing of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman could grow louder.
But while MbS remains ensconced in his protective shield of power, those directly involved in the killing have good reason to be afraid. The United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet has called for the lifting of diplomatic immunity for any facilities and persons tied to the killing, which means that, even if Saudi Arabia gives its nominal “rogue operatives” a pass, extradition requests from Turkey or another UN member would greatly increase their chances of arrest.