The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is in possession of a tape that proves Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gave instructions to “silence” dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a new report has revealed.
Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported Thursday that CIA Director Gina Haspel had signaled the existence of the recording to Turkish officials last month.
MBS is under growing pressure to come clean about Khashoggi’s murder inside the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city of Istanbul about six weeks ago.
While Riyadh has repeatedly denied the young prince’s involvement, there have been reports of several audio recordings that confirm bin Salman ordered a hit job on longtime friend Khashoggi, after he turned on him and started to criticize his policies.
“There is talk of another recording,” Hurriyet columnist Abdulkadir Selvi wrote, claiming that the alleged call took place between MBS and his brother Khaled, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the US.
“It is being said the crown prince gave orders to ‘silence Jamal Khashoggi as soon as possible’,” in a call which was monitored by the CIA, he claimed.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that Khashoggi’s murder was ordered by the highest level of Saudi leadership.
Saudis first claimed that the ill-fated journalist had left the consulate on October 2, the same day he entered the building for some paperwork.
After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh finally admitted last week that Khashoggi was killed when he refused to return to Saudi Arabia.
Trump refers questions to CIA, defends MBS
US President Donald Trump refused to say whether the tape was real and referred reporters to the CIA for answers.
“I don’t want to talk about it. You’ll have to ask them,” he said during a teleconference with military members from his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.
Asked about bin Salman’s possible involvement he said the Saudi prince “regretted the death more than I do.”
“Whether he did or whether he didn’t, he denies it vehemently. His father denies, the king, vehemently. The CIA doesn’t say they did it. They do point out certain things, and in pointing out those things, you can conclude that maybe he did or maybe he didn’t,” Trump added.
The American president said he would stand by Saudi Arabia’s leadership on the issue because he needed Riyadh’s help to drive down oil prices.
“We want low oil prices and Saudi Arabia has really done a good job in that respect,” Trump said.
“I hate the crime. I hate what’s done. I hate the cover up. And I tell you what: the crown print hates it more than I do,” Trump said, without providing further detail.
When Khashoggi, a US green card holder, first went missing, Trump’s argument to not give Riyadh a hard time was because “it’s in Turkey, and it’s not a citizen.”
However, as he was saying that and kept siding with MBS, an American citizen was left behind bars in the bowels of the Saudi prison system.
Walid Fitaihi, a Harvard-trained doctor, hospital owner, television host and motivational speaker, has been detained without trial for more than a year now, according to The New York Times.
A dual citizen, Fitaihi is one of many businessmen, princes, clerics, scholars and activists that Saudi security forces have arrested as part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s push to consolidate his power.
Trump’s reaction to the Khashoggi case, and his rather lack of reaction on Fitaihi, shows how human rights come second to other American interests, including Saudi military contracts and oil prices.