Saudi Crown Prince On Killing Of Jamal Khashoggi: 'It Happened Under My Watch'

Sep 26, 2019
Originally published on September 26, 2019 2:10 pm

Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has acknowledged for the first time that he is accountable for the killing of prominent critic and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The revelation is made in an upcoming PBS documentary set to air next week, a day before the one-year anniversary of Khashoggi's death.

"It happened under my watch," the crown prince, commonly referred to by his initials MBS, said to PBS Frontline journalist Martin Smith. "I get all the responsibility because it happened under my watch."

Khashoggi was last seen walking into the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Once inside, he was brutally killed and dismembered by Saudi state agents, according to a United Nations report. His remains have never been located.

Khashoggi's killing touched off worldwide condemnation for Salman, the young ruler who had been viewed by Western nations as a progressive visionary in the deeply conservative kingdom.

The crown prince did not take responsibility for planning Khashoggi's killing, nor did he admit that he had prior knowledge of it.

When pressed on how it could happen without him knowing or giving the OK, he responded: "We have 20 million people. We have 3 million government employees."

Smith pushed back, asking if those government officials had authority to take one of the crown prince's planes from Saudi Arabia to Turkey.

"I have officials, ministers to follow things, and they're responsible. They have the authority to do that," Salman said.

Following Khashoggi's killing last October, Saudi Arabia initially denied any involvement.

Khashoggi, pictured at a press conference in Bahrain in 2014, was killed in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul last year. His body has not been located or recovered.
Mohammed al-Shaikh / AFP/Getty Images

As NPR reported in June, a special U.N. investigator found Salman should be investigated based on "credible evidence" that the crown prince and others were culpable.

"Evidence points to the 15-person mission to execute Mr. Khashoggi requiring significant government coordination, resources and finances," the report found, adding, "Saudi high-level officials planned, oversaw and/or endorsed the mission."

Critics of the Trump administration say the U.S. government has not acted swiftly or forcefully enough against the Saudi government.

In July, a little more than a month after the U.N. report, President Trump vetoed a series of legislative measures aimed at blocking weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control imposed sanctions on 17 Saudi nationals for their "role in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi."

"The United States continues to diligently work to ascertain all of the facts and will hold accountable each of those we find responsible in order to achieve justice for Khashoggi's fiancée, children, and the family he leaves behind," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement.

The crown prince was not one of the Saudi individuals sanctioned by the U.S.

As NPR's Jackie Northam reported at the time, the U.S. sanctions came on the heels of Saudi Arabia's top prosecutor announcing the death penalty for five Saudis connected to the journalist's killing.

A trial for 11 men accused of killing Khashoggi got underway in January and has largely taken place in Saudi Arabia outside the public view.

: 9/26/19

A previous version of this story misspelled a reference to Jamal Khashoggi's last name as Khasoggi.

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