Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief, told an IPI audience on November 9th that the kingdom would never permit an international investigation into the death of dissident Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
“The kingdom is not going to accept an international tribunal to look into something that is Saudi,” he said. “And the Saudi judicial system is sound, it is up, it is running, and it will take its course.” Saudi Arabia, he said, will “never accept foreign interference in that system.”
Mr. Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist who had been living in self-exile for the past year in the United States and contributing articles to The Washington Post, was killed on October 2nd in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where he had gone to obtain papers to marry his Turkish fiancée. Saudi officials at first claimed that he had left the consulate safely, but eventually acknowledged that he had been murdered in a “premeditated” fashion.
The killers were members of a team of 15 Saudis who had flown to Turkey that day, and the episode called public attention to the possible involvement of the powerful young Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, because photographs showed that some of the team were known associates of his.
In turning aside suggestions from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, human rights groups and others for independent outside investigators, Prince Turki said that Saudi Arabia was following the example of other countries that have refused to allow international tribunals to investigate acts by their citizens. He cited the abuse of prisoners by American troops and CIA staff at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq following the 2003 invasion, which the United States itself investigated.
He denied that there had been any attempted cover up, saying instead that what was originally reported to Saudi authorities was “misleading” because “those who perpetrated the crime wanted to hide what had happened and to justify what they had told to the authorities.”
He said he expected the kingdom to live up to its promise to “put all the facts on the table” and answer all outstanding questions, including what happened to Mr. Khashoggi’s body, which remains a mystery. He said that would be disclosed as “part of the reporting that we expect from the authorities.”
Prince Turki, who is now Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, was Director General of the General Intelligence Directorate, which is Saudi Arabia’s main foreign intelligence service, from 1977 to 2001. In 2002, he became Ambassador to the United Kingdom and Ireland and in 2005 Ambassador to the United States.
In both ambassadorial posts, Mr. Khashoggi was his media adviser, and the Prince said, “We had very friendly relations over the years.” He called his murder “a tragic occurrence” and cited a passage from the Koran that “‘the killing of an innocent man is like the killing of humanity,’ and I think his death falls into that category.”
Asked whether the controversy over Mr. Khashoggi’s killing had damaged Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at home, he said, “The more that he is attacked in the media and speculated upon by particularly Western media, the more he gets support among the people and among the Saudi [royal] family…They feel that he is unjustifiably victimized by this media.”
During the 40-minute Q&A session, he answered questions about Yemen, the rights of women, and the effect of the Khashoggi killing on international investment.
Prince Turki has been a member of IPI’s International Advisory Council for 12 years and was appearing at IPI as part of its Speaker Series.
IPI Senior Adviser for External Relations Warren Hoge moderated the discussion.
“Audio of Khashoggi’s killing given to U.S., Saudi, Europeans, Erdogan says,” Washington Post, November 10, 2018
“Ex-Saudi spy chief: No independent Khashoggi investigation,” Associate Press, November 9, 2018
“Former Saudi Official Rejects Outside Probe of Journalist’s Death,” Wall Street Journal, November 9, 2018
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