Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the Saudi royal family, has been killed in the consulate in Istanbul on 2 October 2018, in what is now being described as murder.
Mr Khashoggi had a long career in journalism in Saudi Arabia and once held a close relationship with the Saudi royal family. However, in recent years, he became critical of the regime’s foreign policy through articles published anonymously in the Middle East Eye. He also criticised Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, a close economic and political ally of Saudi Arabia.
Following his increasingly opposing stance to the Saudi government, Mr Khashoggi fled to Washington DC after being banned from journalism in the country. In his monthly column in The Washington Post, he frequently attacked many of Saudi Arabia’s policies, condemned their involvement in ‘Yemen’s cruel war’, and criticised Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. In one of his earliest columns, he wrote about how the ‘climate of fear and intimidation’ in Saudi Arabia led him to flee the country.
Mr Khashoggi visited the Saudi consulate four days prior to his death in order to obtain documentation to prove his marital status, but the consulate asked him to return on 2 October. His arrival for his second appointment was captured on CCTV, but after 10 hours with no contact from him, his fiancée alerted Turkish authorities to his disappearance.
The Saudi government denied any knowledge of his disappearance for two weeks, with the consulate saying that he had left after completing the documentation. Following a Turkish investigation into events, President Recep Erdogan briefed the Turkish parliament to inform them that there was strong evidence that Khashoggi had been killed in the consulate in a premeditated attack, with the arrival of three teams of Saudi nationals into Istanbul in the hours before his death. Turkish authorities claim to have an audio recording of the killing.
In a backtrack by the Saudi government, they announced on 20 October via state media that Mr Khashoggi had been killed on 2 October during a confrontation in the consulate after officials tried to return him to Saudi Arabia. His body was allegedly rolled in a rug and disposed of. In an interview with Fox News, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir described the death as murder but emphasised that a ‘tremendous mistake’ had been made and denied that the killing had been ordered by the Crown Prince. The Saudi government described the killing as a ‘rogue operation’ and that they have arrested or dismissed 20 security officials. Adel al-Jubeir said in a subsequent press conference that the arrested suspects would be prosecuted in Saudi Arabia, refusing the request of Turkish authorities to have them extradited to Turkey. He also criticised the response from Western media to the killing, describing it as ‘hysteria.’
Western businesses and politicians took a strong stance against the Saudi government by boycotting a trade conference in Riyadh. UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt condemned the killing in the ‘strongest possible terms,’ and called for the Saudi government to hand control of the investigation to Turkish authorities. The European parliament voted to suspend the sale of arms from EU states to Saudi Arabia. However, this vote was non-binding, and Germany is the only country to have implemented this. Figures from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute show that Germany contributes approximately two percent of Saudi arms imports. The UK and US account for the largest proportion of Saudi arms imports, at 23 percent and 61 percent respectively. President Donald Trump has expressed his reluctance to suspend arms sales, but with calls from members of Congress for a ban to be imposed, and for economic sanctions, Trump may be forced to cave to domestic pressure.