New York: The UN human rights investigator leading the international inquiry into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi said evidence showed he was “victim of a brutal and premeditated killing, planned and perpetrated by officials of the state of Saudi Arabia”.
Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard said on Thursday that her three-member team had access to part of “chilling and gruesome audio material” on the murder obtained by Turkish intelligence agencies.
Saudi Arabia “seriously undermined” Turkey’s efforts to investigate Khashoggi’s killing at its Istanbul consulate, said the team’s statement.
“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,” Callamard said.
Reporting on a week-long mission with her team of three experts to Turkey, Callamard also said she requested access to Saudi Arabia.
She expressed “major concerns” about fairness of proceedings for 11 people facing trial in the kingdom over Khashoggi’s murder.
Callamard plans to present a final report to the UN Human Rights Council in June.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who wrote critically about Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (also known as MBS), was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2 last year. His body is yet to be found.
US intelligence agencies believe MBS ordered the murder operation.
Riyadh denies the powerful prince had any involvement, alleging “rogue” Saudi elements acted on their own accord.
A Saudi public prosecutor’s spokesperson said last year that 21 Saudis had been taken into custody over the case, 11 of whom had been indicted and referred to trial.
The prosecutor said earlier this month his office was seeking the death penalty for five of the 11 indicted suspects.
Turkey wants Saudi Arabia to extradite those accused of carrying out the murder to be tried in Turkish courts.