Jamal Khashoggi, a former editor-in-chief of the Saudi newspaper Al-Watan, and a columnist for The Washington Post, was killed on October 2, 2018, shortly after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, according to the Post, and other news reports that cited Turkish officials. A report released by the CIA in November into the killing of the U.S. resident found that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the journalist’s murder, according to The Washington Post.
Khashoggi, who fled Saudi for the U.S. in September 2017, was at the consulate to complete paperwork so he could marry his fiancée, Hatice Cengiz, according to reports. While inside, a group of Saudis confronted Khashoggi, killed him, and dismembered his body, according to the CIA and a transcript of the killing published by CNN.
CNN reported that a leaked transcript of a recording from inside the Saudi Consulate had recorded Khashoggi’s last moments. The network said that the recording indicated Khashoggi struggled against a group of operatives and was killed, and then a saw was used to dismember his body.
Saudi authorities repeatedly changed their account of what happened, initially saying that Khashoggi had left the consulate, Reuters reported. Saudi authorities acknowledged for the first time on October 20 that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, The Washington Post reported. The Saudi Foreign Ministry said that he died during a fist fight after he got into an argument. Saudi authorities said that it fired five officials and arrested 18 people, the newspaper reported. Days later, Saudi authorities admitted that the killing was premeditated, according to The New York Times. As of December 2018, Saudi authorities continued to deny any higher-level culpability in the murder.
In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Cengiz wrote that when Khashoggi had visited the consulate for the first time, unannounced, on September 28, the staff received him cordially. According to Reuters, the staff told Khashoggi he would need to return to complete his paperwork. Khashoggi called the consulate on the morning of October 2 and was told to collect his paperwork at 1 p.m. the same day. He arrived with Cengiz, gave her his two mobile phones, and told her that if he did not return she should call Yasin Aktay, his friend who works as an aide to Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdoğan, according to Reuters.
Cengiz wrote in the Post that when she asked consulate staff about her fiancé's whereabouts, about three hours later, she was told that he left the premises without her noticing. Cengiz said she immediately called Aktay.
The Washington Post reported on October 10 that U.S. intelligence had intercepted communications indicating that the crown prince ordered Khashoggi to be detained and rendered from the U.S. back to Saudi Arabia, and the next day the Post reported that the Turkish government told U.S. officials that it had audio and video recordings that proved Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate, the Post reported.
In mid-November, the CIA concluded that bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s murder, based on evidence, including a phone call from the crown prince’s brother, Khalid bin Salman, who is the Saudi ambassador to the U.S., to Khashoggi telling him it was safe to go to the consulate in Istanbul to retrieve his documents, according to the Post.
In a statement, Trump equivocated on whether or not the crown prince was involved in Khashoggi’s murder, and said it should not impact U.S.-Saudi relations.
On December 13, 2018, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution holding Mohammed bin Salman responsible, according to The Hill.
On June 19, 2019, the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights published a special report by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary killings, Agnes Callamard, saying that Khashoggi’s murder constituted “an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible.” The report further said that “the Special Rapporteur has determined that there is credible evidence, warranting further investigation of high-level Saudi Officials’ individual liability, including the Crown Prince’s,” while cautioning that his murder was a violation of international human rights law regardless of whether there was definitive evidence pointing to who ordered it. In the report, Callamard also held Saudi Arabia responsible for failing to investigate the murder in accordance with international standards.
A year before his murder, Khashoggi went into self-imposed exiled, saying at the time he feared arrest after authorities there banned him from appearing in the media over critical remarks he made of Donald Trump, according a U.S. state department report on Saudi Arabia.
The columnist wrote critically about Saudi Arabia and bin Salman. He criticized politically motivated arrests and was one of the first to report the arrest in the country of Saleh al-Shehi, a prominent columnist, in January 2018.
Khashoggi had long-standing ties to the Saudi royal family, the Post reported. However, he was fired from Al-Watan twice, once in 2003 over his criticism of a 14th century Muslim theologian and again in 2010, after the paper ran a piece critical of the Saudi state's governing religious ideology, according to a BBC report. In between his stints at Al-Watan, he was an adviser to Prince Turki al-Faisal while the prince was Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the U.K., and became his media aide when the prince was later appointed ambassador to the U.S.