Saudi Crown Prince calls Jamal Khashoggi murder 'repulsive'

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Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (right) talking to Senegal President Macky Sall during the FII Forum. PHOTO: REUTERS

RIYADH (AFP) - Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince on Wednesday (Oct 24) denounced the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and vowed justice would prevail, without addressing United States accusations of a botched cover-up over the killing by the Gulf kingdom.

After phoning Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the Oct 2 killing in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul which has triggered an international diplomatic crisis, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pledged there would be "no rupture" in ties with Ankara.

"The incident was very painful for all Saudis, it's a repulsive incident and no one can justify it," Prince Mohammed said in his first comments since the journalist's murder.

"Those responsible will be held accountable... in the end justice will prevail," the heir apparent to the Saudi throne told a major investment forum in Riyadh, speaking in Arabic in his first public comments on the scandal.

Three weeks since Mr Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen living in self-imposed exile, disappeared after walking into the consulate to get some marriage documents, the crisis shows no signs of abating.

Washington moved late on Tuesday to revoke the visas of a number of Saudis even though the two countries have long been allies, with Britain following suit on Wednesday.

Saudi leaders have denied involvement in Mr Khashoggi's murder, pushing responsibility down the chain of command.


But Turkey has been leading their own investigation and Mr Erdogan said the killing was meticulously planned, calling for 18 Saudis who have been detained by Saudi authorities to be tried in Istanbul.

Mr Erdogan spoke with Prince Mohammed in their first telephone conversation since the killing, a Turkish presidential source said.

The two discussed "the issue of joint efforts and the steps that need to be taken in order to shed light on the Jamal Khashoggi murder in all its aspects", the source added.

Speaking at the investment forum, Prince Mohammed said: "Many are trying to exploit the Khashoggi affair to drive a wedge between Saudi Arabia and Turkey."

"But they will not succeed as long as there is a king named Salman and a crown prince named Mohammed bin Salman."

Since becoming heir apparent last year, Prince Mohammed has won plaudits for reforms including to end a decades-long ban on women drivers.

But his image has been tarnished by Mr Khashoggi's murder despite repeated denials he had any involvement. And Riyadh's changing narrative has triggered deep scepticism abroad.

US President Donald Trump said the Saudis had a "very bad original concept" in killing the 59-year-old Saudi insider-turned-critic.

"It was carried out poorly and the cover-up was one of the worst in the history of cover-ups," Mr Trump said.


Mr Trump also appeared to indicate for the first time that Prince Mohammed may have had a role in the Khashoggi case, telling the Wall Street Journal: "Well, the prince is running things over there more... so if anybody were going to be, it would be him."

The investment conference, aimed at drumming up funds to help Riyadh diversify its oil-reliant economy, has been overshadowed by the outcry over Mr Khashoggi's murder with an array of big names pulling out of the event.

Faced with mounting calls for tough measures by US lawmakers across the political spectrum, the State Department said it had identified 21 Saudis whose visas would either be revoked or who would be ineligible for future visas.

"We are making very clear that the United States does not tolerate this kind of action to silence Mr Khashoggi, a journalist, through violence," US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said Britain was "taking action against all suspects to prevent them entering the UK. If these individuals currently have visas, those visas will be revoked today".

France also weighed in, saying it would take "punitive measures" if Saudi Arabia was "proven" to be behind the murder.


Turkish pro-government media reported on Wednesday that Turkish intelligence had shared "all the evidence" gathered from its investigation into the killing of the Washington Post columnist with the CIA.

The evidence included video and audio recordings from the consulate and the consul's residence, and were shared with visiting CIA chief Gina Haspel, Sabah newspaper reported.

The whereabouts of Mr Khashoggi's corpse is still unknown.

State media in Turkey said on Wednesday that Saudi authorities had denied permission to Turkish police to search a well in the consulate's garden.

Mr Erdogan vowed that Turkey would not allow the culprits to get away with their "savage murder".

"It is not over yet," he said. "We are unravelling, dismantling (the case) and the world is closely following."

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