The “brutal and premeditated” murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was “planned and perpetrated” by Saudi officials, the United Nations has said.
A UN inquiry into the killing of the Washington Post columnist found the Riyadh regime had “seriously undermined” Turkey’s efforts to investigate the crime scene at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“Evidence collected during my mission to Turkey shows prima facie case that Mr Khashoggi was the victim of a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the State of Saudi Arabia,” the UN’s Agnes Callamard said.
“Woefully inadequate time and access was granted to Turkish investigators to conduct a professional and effective crime scene examination and search required by international standards for investigation,” she added.
Ms Callamard, whose team reports on extrajudicial summary or arbitrary executions, said they heard part of the “chilling and gruesome audio material” of Mr Khashoggi’s death obtained by the Turkish intelligence agency during a week spent in the country.
Mr Khashoggi, a staunch critic of Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October last year.
He had gone there to get papers he needed for his upcoming marriage to Turkish national Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside the building for him and raised the alarm when he did not emerge.
Turkey’s intelligence agency, along with western counterparts, believe the crown prince planned an operation to kill the writer and have his body dismembered and removed to an unknown location.
The kingdom initially denied Mr Khashoggi was murdered but – under increasing international condemnation – later changed its story and admitted the 59-year-old was killed as part of a “rogue operation”.
The prince, who had been seen as a reformer in the West for, among other things, allowing women to drive, did not order the killing, Saudi officials insist.
In December, Saudi public prosecutors charged 11 people with carrying out the killing and are seeking the death penalty for five of the suspects.
Ms Callamard said she had “major concerns” about whether they will receive a fair trial and wants to visit the kingdom before presenting a final report to the Human Rights Council in June.