Murder in the Saudi consulate: Inside Jamal Khashoggi's killing

Murder in the Saudi consulate: Inside Jamal Khashoggi's killing
Special coverage as the investigation continues into the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul.
4 min read
22 October, 2018

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi has shocked the world.

While international responses have yet to translate into more than vocal media objection and the boycotting of a flagship conference in Riyadh, it is the Saudi Arabian response which highlights the importance of the media in covering the story.

According to reports, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was highly indignant of the way in which the west had presumed him guilty without any evidence, saying he would never forget the west's betrayal.

Given everything we now know from Saudi PR agents and the recent media appearances by Adel al-Jubeir as well as the continuous stream of Turkish leaks - none of which has been unequivocally disproven by the Saudis - it is clear that MBS knew of the operation to neutralise Jamal Khashoggi.

His indignation therefore can be perceived as the petulant anger of a spoilt child who is being called out for purposely doing something wrong. The danger here is that this is not a classroom or playground but one of the world's largest economies and a position that holds sway over 25 percent of the world's proven oil reserves.

Within Saudi Arabia, 24 hour TV and online coverage has been telling the people there that an almighty conspiracy was taking place against the "magnificent kingdom", carried out by Iran, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood.

Another campaign was run to besmirch Jamal's own name and reputation. As the leaks continued and pressure in Washington began to mount, the government then admitted to having known of his murder inside the consulate - giving laughable explanations about how a fist-fight occurred and his death as a result of a chokehold.

Shockingly, within this debacle lies a number of even more worrying underlying issues that the Saudis themselves have exposed.

The first is that MBS had ordered and supervised a rendition programme designed to target Saudi opposition characters based outside the country. These are civilians ranging in age and gender and have fled Saudi Arabia in search of security and laws that guarantee their freedom of expression. More often than not they have found safe-havens in the UK, USA, Canada and other western democracies. Yet intimidation and threats to themselves and their families have not stopped from the Saudi state.

The Saudi Arabian government has invested heavily in an online programme that floods social media sites with fake news, character assassinations and skews trending subjects. It spies on users, sends Trojans and other viruses to monitor and steal their information and blackmails them based on whatever personal information they can find.

This is not in defence of a state but to defend the personality of MBS and ensure that any critics are summarily dealt with.

There is now a new order in Riyadh which has done away with any pretence at rule of law. While changes have been made to the intelligence directorate, the fall guys are seen to be scapegoats. Indeed, had the people excused of their roles truly been responsible for Khashoggi's death, then the king would have had no hesitation in ordering their execution.

In assigning MBS to oversee the restructure of the intelligence directorate, the king and MBS have dug their heels in deep and told the world that no matter what comes out as a result of the murder, they will decide who is guilty and who deserves to be punished.

Saudi Arabian propagandists have also been pushing veiled threats - almost ludicrous in their nature - about closer ties to Iran, hiking up oil prices and more, if western insistence at reaching the truth of the matter doesn't stop.

Of course this all points to dark days ahead in modern Saudi Arabia and the notions of "reform", about which few had any illusions. Bar starry-eyed pundits with questionable judgement, the question posed to western lawmakers is clear: will authoritarianism and blatant disregard for international law be acceptable, provided that the price is right?

We have collected some of our news coverage and analysis to try and help readers follow the story and ongoing developments. We also would like to inform readers that while we may have the liberty of reading the content here and content from other news sites, those in Saudi Arabia do not have the same freedoms. The New Arab has been blocked by the Saudi Arabian authorities, along with a number of other news sites since December 2015.

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