Ex-Saudi spy chief: No independent Khashoggi investigation

NEW YORK (AP) — Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s former spy chief, said Friday the country is proud of its judicial system and will never accept an international investigation into the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, human rights groups, and some government leaders have called for an independent probe into the Oct. 2 killing of the Washington Post columnist at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul where he had gone to get papers so he could marry his Turkish fiance. The United States called Monday for a “thorough, conclusive and transparent” investigation at the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

Turki said in a speech and question-and-answer session at the International Peace Institute think tank that he expects the kingdom to live up to its promise to investigate and “put all of the facts on the table” and answer all outstanding questions, including what happened to Khashoggi’s body.

“The kingdom is not going to accept an international tribunal to look into something that is Saudi, and the Saudi judicial system is sound, it is up, it is running, and it will take its course,” he said. “The kingdom ... will never accept foreign interference in that system.”

In doing this, Turki said, Saudi Arabia is following other countries that have refused to allow international tribunals to investigate acts that happened on their soil or elsewhere by their citizens. He cited the abuse of prisoners by American troops and CIA staff at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq following the 2003 U.S. invasion which the United States investigated.

Turki said Khashoggi was the Saudi embassy spokesman when he was ambassador to the United States and Britain, and they had been “very friendly over the years.” He described Khashoggi’s death, citing a verse from the Quran. “It says that the killing of an innocent man is like the killing of all of humanity. His death falls into that category,” Turki said.

Saudi Arabia had insisted for weeks after Khashoggi disappeared that he had walked out of the consulate, before changing its account to say he died in a brawl. Last month, Saudi Arabia acknowledged that Turkish evidence indicates that Khashoggi’s killing was premeditated, shifting its explanation in an apparent effort to ease international outrage over the death.

Turkey says Khashoggi, who was critical of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was strangled and dismembered at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 by a 15-member assassination squad. Media reports have suggested that his body could have been chemically dissolved.

Saudi officials characterize the killing as a rogue operation carried out by Saudi agents who exceeded their authority. Yet some of those implicated in the killing are close to the crown prince, including a member of the prince’s entourage on foreign trips who was seen at the consulate before Khashoggi’s slaying. And crown prince Mohammed’s condemnation of the killing has failed to ease suspicions that he was involved.

Turkey is seeking the extradition of 18 suspects who have been detained in Saudi Arabia, so they can be put on trial in Turkey. They include the 15 members of the alleged “hit squad.”

Prince Turki, who is chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, said his view is that there was no attempted cover up.

Rather, he said, what was 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 the authorities.”

He accused the media of seeking “sensation” and of “laying accusations” about the crown prince “without a fact,” and based on “pure speculation.”

“The truth is you can never hide the truth — and the kingdom will never attempt to hide the truth, not just on this situation but on other situations,” he said.

He reiterated that the final report “will lay out exactly what happened and answer all of these questions that have been speculated about and made into tremendous issues.”