From the NY Times editorial board.
Saudi Arabia’s Threadbare Cover-Up of Khashoggi’s Killing Unravels Further
The crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, was overheard threatening to silence the self-exiled Washington Post journalist “with a bullet.”
The latest have come from American intelligence agencies, a United Nations investigator and a coalition of nongovernmental organizations, sources that in their diversity and breadth should serve notice on Prince Mohammed that all his oil wealth and powerful friends will not wash away the blood of the slain journalist.
A report in The Times on Thursday said the National Security Agency and other American spy agencies have uncovered an intercepted conversation in which Prince Mohammed tells a top aide more than a year before Mr. Khashoggi’s murder that if the self-exiled journalist cannot be enticed back to Saudi Arabia, he should be brought back by force. And if that didn’t work, the prince is heard to say, he would go after Mr. Khashoggi “with a bullet.”
Whether Prince Mohammed meant that literally or figuratively, the quote reveals a young, ruthlessly ambitious autocrat furious that a one-time insider dared criticize him as he sought to impose his will on the kingdom, including the repression of all who dare speak their mind. It was shortly after that conversation that Mr. Khashoggi produced his first column for The Washington Post, where he wrote: “I have left my home, my family and my job, and I am raising my voice. To do otherwise would betray those who languish in prison.”
“We Saudis deserve better,” he concluded.
Despite Mr. Trump’s efforts to blunt the allegations against Prince Mohammed, who had cultivated a close relationship with the president and Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, an assessment by the Central Intelligence Agency weeks after the killing concluded that the crown prince had to have ordered it.
At the United Nations, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, Agnes Callamard, reported Thursday that her initial findings “show prime 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.” Though that essentially confirmed what is already widely accepted, the very fact of the independent United Nations investigation under a respected human-rights expert (Ms. Callamard, of France, is also director of Columbia University’s Global Freedom of Expression project), whose team includes a British barrister and a Portuguese forensics expert, is a welcome escalation of the pressures on Saudi Arabia to come clean. The panel will report its full findings in June.
A coalition of prominent nongovernment organizations, meanwhile, issued a joint statement accusing the Saudi government of continuing to persecute dissidents, activists, journalists and independent clerics. The group — the Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights First, Human Rights Watch, Open Society Justice Initiative, PEN America and Reporters Without Borders — also accused the Trump administration of a “cover-up on behalf of the Saudi government” and called the trial of 11 Saudi individuals accused of killing Mr. Khashoggi “a sham.”