Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (C) arrives to attend a session during the Future Investment Initiative conference, Riyadh, Oct. 24.
There are still attempts to obscure responsibility for the Khashoggi murder as some Saudi groups are leading a campaign to spread disinformation and change the course of the ongoing Turkish investigation
Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul almost a month ago. Over the past weeks, the truth has come out slowly and painfully. Had it not been for Turkey’s persistence and determination, Saudi Arabia would have undoubtedly covered up the assassination. Investigators have been able to make progress largely thanks to the pressure that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan mounted on Riyadh.
Here’s a quick recap of the past month: On Oct. 2, Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and never came out. Initially, Saudi authorities claimed that Khashoggi had left the compound after staying there for a few minutes. In an interview with Bloomberg, a defiant Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi crown prince, told the world that his country had nothing to hide and pledged to permit the Turkish authorities to search the consulate in Istanbul. In practice, the Saudi leadership proved far more reluctant to grant permission. Meanwhile, certain media outlets in the Arab world attempted to portray members of the Saudi death squad, which traveled to Istanbul for the purpose of killing Khashoggi, as innocent tourists.
Turkey responded by leaking information about Khashoggi’s murder inside the Saudi consulate to the international press. After several weeks of public shaming, Riyadh was forced into admitting to the assassination. Yet Riyadh’s new explanation referred to a deadly fist fight between the Saudi journalist and 15 intelligence operatives. The resulting uproar compelled the Saudis to change their story once again, and they told the media that Saudi officials had invited Khashoggi to Riyadh, attempted to interrogate him and unwittingly choked him to death as they sought to prevent him from screaming. In other words, Saudi Arabia continued to claim that Khashoggi’s murder was an accident. Encountering additional pressure from the international community, the Saudis finally had to concede that the murder was indeed premeditated – as Turkey had maintained all along.
Unless you have been living under a rock, you must have noticed that the Saudi leadership repeatedly flip-flopped on the Khashoggi murder. To add insult to injury, Riyadh’s mouthpieces and troll army spread disinformation to change the course of the investigation or to water down Turkey’s findings. One of the most interesting tactics that the Saudis employed in recent weeks involved the dissemination of photographs purporting to show Jamal Khashoggi’s disfigured body. This incident would have remained a secret, had a source not shared it with me. In the end, it became clear that those pictures were stills from a movie called El Gringo. According to another source, anonymous sources had sent the photographs to international media outlets, including The New York Times and CNN, in an attempt to discredit the Turkish investigation into the death of Jamal Khashoggi.
Why go to such lengths? Clearly, there are some people out there who do not want the Turkish investigators to shed light on all aspects of Khashoggi’s death. To accomplish that goal, they have been spreading disinformation and false images intended to cause confusion. Although the identities of those individuals remain unclear, there is no doubt that their goal was to distract the public’s attention from critical questions surrounding the Khashoggi murder: Where is Jamal Khashoggi’s body? Who was the “local cooperator” to whom the Saudis supposedly handed over the journalist’s dead body? Will the 18 detainees in Riyadh take the fall for Khashoggi’s murder? Or will the investigation reach the individuals that ordered the hit?
In recent days, The Washington Post has been running ads with the motto “Demand the Truth” to show that it means to find out what happened to its late contributor. Understandably, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s picture appears on campaign materials. In other words, the newspaper demands him to explain what really happened to Jamal Khashoggi. To be clear, they have every reason to ask those questions. After all, only Saudi officials know why Khashoggi was killed, who called the shots and how the crime was committed. Under the circumstances, we all must support The Washington Post’s campaign