Rights group files complaint against Saudi crown prince over Khashoggi killing

Jamal Khashoggi

An international media rights group has filed a complaint with German prosecutors against Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and four other senior officials accusing them of crimes against humanity over allegations they were involved in the killing of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, authorities said.

Reporters Without Borders

The federal prosecutor’s office in Karlsruhe told the Associated Press it received the complaint from Paris-based Reporters Without Borders on 1 March.

The complaint, relying partially on a newly declassified US intelligence report released on 26 February, identifies five primary suspects: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, his close adviser Saud Al-Qahtani, and three other high-ranking Saudi officials, Reporters Without Borders said.

They were identified for their “organisational or executive responsibility in Khashoggi’s killing, as well as their involvement in developing a state policy to attack and silence journalists”, the group said in a statement.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (Victoria Jones/PA)

In the US report, intelligence officials stopped short of saying the crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s killing in Turkey in October 2018, but described him as having “absolute control” over the kingdom’s intelligence organisations and it would have been highly unlikely for such an operation to have been carried out without his approval.

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Saudia Arabia’s UN ambassador Abdallah Al-Mouallimi disputed the report on 1 March, saying it did not come “anywhere close” to proof of any allegations against the crown prince.

Under the German legal system, anyone can file an allegation with prosecutors and there is an obligation for them to look into the accusations. It’s up to them to determine whether they justify launching a full investigation.

German law allows prosecutors to claim universal jurisdiction in crimes against humanity, and last week they secured the conviction of a former member of Syrian president Bashar Assad’s secret police for his involvement in facilitating the torture of prisoners in his homeland.

In that case the defendant had been living in Germany. The Khashoggi case has no obvious connections to the country.


Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said in a statement:

Those responsible for the persecution of journalists in Saudi Arabia, including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, must be held accountable for their crimes.

While these serious crimes against journalists continue unabated, we call on the German prosecutor to take a stand and open an investigation into the crimes we have revealed.

The killing of Jamal Khashoggi

The US document released on 26 February said a 15-member Saudi team, including seven members of the prince’s elite personal protective team, arrived in Istanbul, though it was unclear how far in advance Saudi officials had decided to harm him. Khashoggi had gone to the Saudi consulate to pick up documents needed for his wedding. Once inside, he died at the hands of more than a dozen Saudi security and intelligence officials and others who had assembled ahead of his arrival.

Surveillance cameras tracked his route and those of his alleged killers in Istanbul in the hours before his killing.

A Turkish bug planted at the consulate reportedly captured the sound of a forensic saw, operated by a Saudi colonel who was also a forensics expert, dismembering Khashoggi’s body within an hour of him entering the building. The whereabouts of his remains is unknown.

Besides the crown prince and his adviser, the complaint names Saudi Arabia’s former deputy head of intelligence Ahmad Mohammed Asiri; Mohammad Al-Otaibi, the consul general in Istanbul at the time of the murder; and intelligence officer Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb.

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