Saudi minister says UN report on Khashoggi murder 'flawed'

Denies Riyadh should accept responsibility

By Bianca Britton, CNN
Copyright 2019 CNN

Saudi Arabia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir reacts to investigator's report on the murder of Jamal Khashoggi.

RIYADH - The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was "gruesome" but a United Nations report into the journalist's killing is "flawed," Saudi Arabia's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said Thursday.

In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, al-Jubeir denied that Riyadh should accept responsibility for Khashoggi's murder, and said he disagreed with the findings of a UN rapporteur who laid the blame on the government.

"This is a gruesome murder that took place without authorization, for which the people who perpetrated (it) are being punished now," al-Jubeir said.

In a much-anticipated report published Wednesday, UN investigator Agnes Callamard said that there was "sufficient credible evidence" that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bears responsibility for Khashoggi's killing, and that he should be investigated for it.

Callamard said that Saudi Arabia was responsible under international law for Khashoggi's "deliberate, premeditated execution," and that current sanctions on some senior officials do not go far enough.

"We disagree with her conclusions," al-Jubeir told CNN. "We don't believe she has a mandate, we believe that her report is flawed, we believe there are internal contradictions in the report, we believe it was based on media reporting and anonymous sources, we believe the description of the trials in Saudi Arabia, calling them secret, is not correct."

According to the report -- which cites evidence from Turkish and other intelligence agencies -- after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018, Khashoggi was injected with a sedative and then suffocated before he was killed and dismembered.

It quotes an audio recording from inside the consulate, in which Khashoggi is heard being told he will be taken to Saudi Arabia.

During the interview, al-Jubeir was read part of a transcript from an audio recording. Al-Jubeir responded by saying the incident should never have taken place.

"This should not have happened," al-Jubeir said.

He added that Saudi prosecutors should be the ones leading the investigation.

"They're in court, they're on trial and they will be punished. We have made this very clear," al-Jubeir said.

He said the procedures of the Saudi Arabian intelligence services had been reviewed so that "mechanisms are put in place to ensure this does not happen again."

Khashoggi's death -- along with the continued fallout from it -- has caused a diplomatic crisis for Riyadh, tarnishing Saudi Arabia's image on the international stage.

Eleven suspects are on trial in Riyadh over Khashoggi's killing. Saudi prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for five of them.

 

'We don't want war'

 

The release of the UN report comes at a time of heightened tensions in the Middle East. On Thursday, Iran shot down a United States military drone, a week after two ships in the Gulf of Oman were damaged in attacks blamed on Tehran.

Al-Jubeir reiterated to CNN that Saudi Arabia did not want conflict.

"We have it made it very clear that nobody wants war. We don't want war. The US doesn't want war," he said. "We have also made it very clear that Iran's aggressive behavior must stop."

Bin Salman blamed Iran for the tanker attack on Sunday and called on the international community to take a "firm stand towards an exponential regime that supports terrorism and spreads killing and destruction."

Washington, too, blames Tehran for the tanker attacks. However Iran has vehemently denied any involvement.

On Thursday al-Jubeir accused Iran of "undermining ... freedom of navigation in the Gulf," adding that "if Iran wants to be treated as a normal country, it has to comport itself as such."

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