DUBAI — Saudi Arabia is seeking the death penalty against five out of 21 people under investigation in connection with the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Five senior government officials have also been dismissed.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of Saudi policies, was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 after entering to obtain documents for his marriage.
Saudi Arabia initially denied knowledge of his fate, then offered contradictory explanations including that he was killed in a rogue operation and that the killing was premeditated. Those varying accounts drew international skepticism.
READ MORE: Saudi Arabia calls for death penalty for suspected Khashoggi killers
On Thursday, the Saudi public prosecutor said Khashoggi was killed by lethal injection, then dismembered and handed over to an unidentified “local cooperator.” The whereabouts of his remains are still unknown.
Turkish security sources say that when Khashoggi entered the consulate, he was seized by 15 Saudi intelligence operatives who had flown in on two jets just hours before.
WATCH: Khashoggi killing: U.S. threatens more action against 17 Saudis facing sanctions
A senior Saudi official confirmed to Reuters they were among those under investigation, and on Thursday the U.S. Treasury imposed sanctions on all of them under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, along with two other officials.
Most of the 15 worked in the Saudi military or security and intelligence services, including at the royal court, according to Saudi and Turkish officials and several sources with ties to the royal court.
READ MORE: Saudi Arabia admits Jamal Khashoggi murder was ‘premeditated’
Turkey’s pro-government Sabah newspaper published what it said were photographs of the men taken from surveillance footage at the airport, two hotels they briefly checked into, the consulate and the consul’s residence.
The following profiles of some of those detained or dismissed are based on those photographs, Saudi media reports and information from Saudi officials and sources.
Saud al-Qahtani, seen as the right-hand man to Prince Mohammed, was removed as a royal court adviser and is the highest-profile figure implicated in the incident.
He joined the royal court under the late King Abdullah. He rose to prominence as a confidant in Prince Mohammed’s secretive inner circle. He regularly spoke on behalf of the crown prince, known as MbS, and has given direct orders to senior officials including in the security apparatus, the sources with ties to the royal court said.
WATCH: Saudi Arabia seeking the death penalty for five suspects accused of killing Jamal Khashoggi
Tasked with countering alleged Qatari influence on social media, Qahtani used Twitter to attack criticism of the kingdom in general and Prince Mohammed in particular. He also ran a WhatsApp group with local newspaper editors, dictating the court line.
Qahtani had tried to lure Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia after he moved to Washington a year ago fearing reprisals for his views, according to people close to the journalist and the government.
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In an August 2017 Twitter thread asking his 1.35 million followers to flag accounts for a black list for monitoring, Qahtani wrote: “Do you think I make decisions without guidance? I am an employee and a faithful executor of the orders of my lord the king and my lord the faithful crown prince.”
The senior Saudi official said Qahtani had authorized one of his subordinates, Maher Mutreb, to conduct what he said was meant to be a negotiation for Khashoggi’s return to the kingdom. Qahtani also supplied Mutreb with unspecified information based on his earlier conversations with Khashoggi, the official said.
WATCH: How should Canada respond to Jamal Khashoggi’s murder
The public prosecutor said a travel ban has been imposed on Qahtani while the investigation continues, but four sources based in the Gulf told Reuters this week that he is still at liberty and continues to operate discreetly.
He is 40 years old, according to the U.S. Treasury. Qahtani did not respond to questions from Reuters. Reuters was not able to reach Mutreb for comment.
General Maher Mutreb, an aide to Qahtani for information security, was the lead negotiator inside the consulate, according to the senior Saudi official. Without naming him, the public prosecutor said the lead negotiator was the person who decided to kill Khashoggi rather than repatriate him.
Mutreb is a senior intelligence officer and part of Prince Mohammed’s security team. He appeared in photographs with the crown prince on official visits this year to the United States and Europe.
According to the Saudi official, Mutreb was selected for the Istanbul operation because he already knew Khashoggi from their time working together at the Saudi embassy in London.
WATCH: Canada ‘actively considering’ sanctions like those U.S. laying against 17 Saudis in Khashoggi case
“He knew Jamal very well and he was the best one to convince him to return,” the official said.
Mutreb received Khashoggi at the Saudi consul’s office around 1:25pm. He began by urging him to come home and claimed he was wanted by Interpol, the official said.
The official said Khashoggi told Mutreb he was violating diplomatic norms and asked whether Mutreb planned to kidnap him. Mutreb said yes, the official said, in an apparent attempt to intimidate Khashoggi.
WATCH: British foreign minister says Khashoggi murder ‘cannot and will not happen again’
Sabah newspaper published stills from surveillance cameras that appear to show Mutreb entering the consulate three hours before Khashoggi, and later outside the consul’s residence.
Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed that Mutreb served as a first secretary at the Saudi embassy in London for a period including 2007. He is 47 years old, according to the U.S. Treasury.
Salah Tubaigy is a forensic expert at the Saudi interior ministry’s criminal evidence department, according to a biography posted online by the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties.
In the Istanbul operation, he was supposed to remove evidence such as fingerprints or proof of the use of force, according to the Saudi official.
Tubaigy spent three months in 2015 at Australia’s Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine to observe death investigation procedures and learn about the use of CT scanning for mass fatality incidents, director Noel Woodford told Reuters.
READ MORE: Saudi foreign minister commits to ‘comprehensive’ probe of Jamal Khashoggi’s killing
Photographs from the institute’s 2015 annual report, which resemble the suspect named by Turkish media, show Tubaigy wearing medical scrubs, a smock and rubber gloves in a laboratory setting, and separately chatting with colleagues.
Tubaigy did not respond to an email sent by Reuters.
The Saudi Society of Forensic Medicine lists him as a board member. He earned a master’s degree in forensic medicine from the University of Glasgow in 2004, the biography shows. A university spokeswoman declined to comment.
Tubaigy is 47 years old, according to the U.S. Treasury.
Ahmed al-Asiri, former deputy head of General Intelligence, was among those sacked by King Salman. The public prosecutor said he was the one who ordered the operation to repatriate – but not kill – Khashoggi.
Asiri joined the military in 2002, according to Saudi media reports, and was spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition which intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015. He was named deputy chief of foreign intelligence by royal decree in April 2017.
U.S. Treasury sanctions announced on Thursday did not include Asiri. Reuters was unable to reach him for comment.
Moustafa al-Madani led the intelligence efforts for the 15-man team in Istanbul, the senior Saudi official said.
According to that official, Madani donned Khashoggi’s clothes, eyeglasses and Apple watch and left through the back door of the consulate in an attempt to make it look like the journalist had walked out of the building.
Madani is a government employee who studied at King Fahd University of Petroleum and Minerals in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province, according to a Facebook profile with photographs resembling the suspect identified by Turkish media.
He is 56 years old, according to the U.S. Treasury. Reuters was unable to reach Madani for comment. University officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
MESHAL SAAD ALBOSTANI
Meshal Saad Albostani is lieutenant in the Saudi Air Force from the Red Sea port of Jeddah, according to a Facebook profile with multiple photographs resembling the suspect identified by Turkish media.
The senior Saudi official said he was responsible for the Istanbul team’s logistics.
READ MORE: Khashoggi killing is a ‘heinous crime,’ Saudi crown prince says
Albostani studied at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, according to Facebook. University officials contacted by Reuters said they could not confirm a graduate of that name.
A LinkedIn profile matching his name and photo says he has served in the air force since 2006.
He is 31 years old, according to the U.S. Treasury. He could not immediately be reached for comment.
Mohammad al-Otaibi is the Istanbul Consul General. He gave Reuters a tour of the consulate four days after the murder, opening cupboards, filing cabinets and wooden panels covering air conditioning units in an effort to show that Khashoggi was not on the premises.
Otaibi left Istanbul ten days later and has not been heard from since. He was sanctioned on Thursday by the U.S. Treasury, which said he is 51 years old.
OTHER MEMBERS OF THE TEAM
Abdulaziz Mohammed al-Hawsawi is a member of the security team that travels with the Saudi crown prince, according to a New York Times report that cited a French professional who has worked with the royal family. He is 31, according to the U.S. Treasury. Reuters could not reach him for comment.
General Rashad bin Hamed al-Hamadi was removed as director of the general directorate of security and protection in the General Intelligence Presidency.
General Abdullah bin Khaleef al-Shaya was removed as assistant head of General Intelligence for human resources.
General Mohammed Saleh al-Ramih was removed as assistant head of General Intelligence for intelligence affairs.
None of the three generals were affected by U.S. Treasury sanctions announced on Thursday. They could not be reached for comment. The Treasury also named 10 other Saudis.
Catholic Bishops react to military coup in Mali
Contrary to the expectations of the people, the leadership of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) has termed the Tuesday, August 18 military coup in the West African nation as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.
In an interview with ACI Africa Wednesday, August 19, made available to RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA, the President of CEM, Bishop Jonas Dembélé said that the governance challenges the country is facing can be managed through dialogue.
“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa.
“It is true that our country has serious challenges including bad governance, the poor management of the economy, corruption, insecurity and so on,” Bishop Dembélé said and probed, “Why is it that we Malians have not managed to engage in dialogue to be able to discuss these problems and face up to these challenges responsibly?”
“Our leaders, our people lack transparency, they hate those who speak the truth and advocate for good governance. This mentality must change for our country to move on,” the Prelate told ACI Africa August 19.
Bishop Dembélé who is a frontline member of RECOWA-CERAO urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”
Asked about the role of the Church in the current crisis, the 57-year-old Prelate noted, “For us the Catholic Church in Mali, our role is to preach peace; our role is to preach dialogue. We shall continue in this path of dialogue for peace just like Cardinal Jean Zerbo and some religious leaders initiated.”
“In a state of law, power is not in the hands of certain individuals but to the people. The anger of our people led to this crisis, but we must work for peace and reconciliation in Mali,” Bishop Dembélé said.
He continued in recollections, “The Bishops in Mali have always issued messages before every election in our country sounding the alert and inviting the government to organize transparent elections, ensure good governance and better management of resources.”
“But it seems our messages are never taken into consideration that is why we find ourselves in this situation today,” the Local Ordinary of Kayes Diocese told ACI Africa and added, “If the opinion of the Episcopal Conference of Mali is needed to mediate in bringing back stability and peace in the country, then we are ready.”
As a way forward, the Bishop urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty.
“We all want change in our
country, but this change can only be possible if individually we seek the path to conversion. It is for Malians be they Muslims or Christians or members of traditional religion, to do an examination of conscience and accept personal and community conversion in order to engage in sincere dialogue,” he said.
The Malian Prelate added, “Now there is this coup d’état to demand change we really wonder where change should come from. As long as we don’t change our behavior, our mentality, we will always have a repeat of the current situation.”
On Tuesday, August 18, President Keita announced his resignation and dissolved parliament hours after mutinying soldiers detained him at gunpoint, Aljazeera reported.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet. If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed,” President Keita said August 18 during the televised address to the nation.
Rev. Fr. George Nwachukwu
RECOWACERAO NEWS AGENCY, RECONA
Harris accepts VP nomination
Senator Kamala Harris formally accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president on Wednesday following a scathing speech by former President Barack Obama, who said the fate of the nation” depends entirely on the outcome of this election.”
Both Mr. Obama and Harris stressed the importance of voting, with Harris saying “we’re all in this fight together.” Harris sounded an optimistic note by highlighting her personal history and the promise of America, saying she was “so inspired by a new generation.”
“Make no mistake, the road ahead will not be not easy,” she said. “We will stumble. We may fall short. But I pledge to you that we will act boldly and deal with our challenges honestly. We will speak truths. And we will act with the same faith in you that we ask you to place in us.” She called Mr. Trump a “predator” in a speech that came after Mr. Obama issued his most forceful rebuke of his successor to date, saying Mr. Trump “hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t.”
“This president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism,” Mr. Obama said. “They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.
That’s how they win. That’s how they get to keep making decisions that affect your life, and the lives of the people you love. That’s how the economy will keep getting skewed to the wealthy and well-connected, how our health systems will let more people fall through the cracks. That’s how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.”
Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, speaking earlier in the night, both said they had hoped Mr. Trump would rise to the occasion. But they both stressed what they called his failures while in office, with Mr. Obama saying Mr. Trump has shown “no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.”
Mali coup leaders vow to hold elections as history repeats itself
The Malian soldiers who forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign in a coup promised early Wednesday to organize new elections after their takeover was swiftly condemned by the international community.
In a statement carried overnight on state broadcaster ORTM, the mutinous soldiers who staged Tuesday’s military coup identified themselves as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Colonel Major Ismael Wagué.
“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” Wagué said, announcing that borders were closed and that a curfew was going into effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m
The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators in the capital, Bamako, and alarm by former colonial ruler France and other allies and foreign nations.
The U.N. Security Council scheduled a closed meeting Wednesday August 19, 2020 afternoon to discuss the unfolding situation in Mali, where the U.N. has a 15,600-strong peacekeeping mission. Keita, who was democratically elected in a 2013 landslide and re-elected five years later, still had three years left in his term.
But his popularity had plummeted, and demonstrators began taking to the streets calling for his ouster in June.
West African regional bloc ECOWAS had sent mediators to try and negotiate a unity government but those talks fell apart when it became clear that the protesters would not accept less than Keita’s resignation.
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