Saudi prosecutor seeks death penalty in Khashoggi killing
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP):
Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor said on Thursday he would seek the death penalty for five men charged with the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey, while the United States moved to sanction 17 Saudi officials it said were involved in the slaying.
The Saudi announcement appeared aimed at distancing the killers and their operation from the kingdom's leadership, including Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, amid a global outcry over the writer's death.
Also on Thursday, Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said the crown prince had "absolutely" nothing to do with Khashoggi's death.
The US Treasury Department, meanwhile, announced it was imposing sanctions on 17 Saudi officials who it said were responsible for, or complicit in, the killing. Among those targeted for sanctions are Saud al-Qahtani, who was one of the crown prince's closest aides, and Mohammed al-Otaibi, the diplomat in charge of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where Khashoggi was killed October 2. Also named is Maher Mutreb, who was part of the crown prince's entourage on trips abroad.
With the kingdom facing mounting international pressure, prosecutors have pointed the finger at some members of the crown prince's inner circle but stopped short of accusing them of ordering Khashoggi's killing. Those closest to the prince are instead accused of ordering Khashoggi's forced return in an operation that the Saudis allege went awry.
In a news conference, Sheikh Shalan al-Shalan, the deputy attorney general, said the killing was ordered by an individual whom he did not identify but said was responsible for negotiating Khashoggi's return back to Saudi Arabia from Istanbul. The individual was part of a 15-man team that was made up of negotiators, intelligence officers and logistics officials.
Al-Shalan said that on the morning of October 2, the leader of the negotiating team saw that he would not be able to force Khashoggi to return, "so he decided to kill him in the moment".
This appears to contradict a previous Saudi statement quoting Turkish intelligence as saying the killing had been premeditated.
Chief Prosecutor Saud Al-Mojeb said that of the 21 people in custody, 11 have been indicted and referred to trial, and that he would seek the death penalty against five of the suspects.