Faridul Alam Farid
Speaking off the record to a Newsweek journalist working on a story about the Saudi leadership, journalist Jamal Khashoggi described Prince Mohammed as “an old-fashioned tribal leader” out of touch with Saudi’s poor.
“Sometimes I feel that … he wants to enjoy the fruits of First World modernity and Silicon Valley and cinemas and everything, but at the same time he wants also to rule like how his grandfather ruled Saudi Arabia,” Khashoggi told Newsweek.
He said, “He [Mohammad Bin Salman] still doesn’t see the people. When he sees the people, that’s when the actual reform will start.”
Khashoggi described two of the prince’s aides — sports chief Turki al-Sheikh and the since-dismissed media adviser Saud al-Qahtani — as “very thuggish”.
“People fear them. You challenge them, you might end up in prison, and that has happened,” he said.
Khashoggi was last seen on October 2 entering his country’s consulate in Istanbul.
His disappearance had been shrouded in mystery, with Turkish officials accusing Saudi Arabia of carrying out a state-sponsored killing and dismembering the body.
Saudi Arabia finally admitted early Saturday that Khashoggi had died inside the consulate in what it described as a “brawl”.
The admission — after persistent claims by the Saudi authorities that Khashoggi had left the consulate alive — came following the threat of US sanctions.
The Saudi authorities have not yet said where his body is.
Earlier, Twitter suspended a pro-Saudi bot operation spreading tweets about the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi after NBC News raised questions, the network reported.
Hundreds of accounts had been tweeting and retweeting pro-Saudi government tweets at the same time, with some using an Arabic hashtag that became the top worldwide trend on Sunday, according to NBC. The hashtag roughly translated to “We All Trust Mohammad Bin Salman,” the Saudi crown prince accused by Turkish officials of involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance and suspected killing.
NBC reported it presented Twitter with a list of the suspicious accounts last week. The company said it was already aware of the activity and had suspended an even larger number of accounts for violating spam rules, according to the network, citing an unnamed Twitter source.
The bot operation reported by NBC urged people to express doubt about news stories reporting that Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate under orders of the Saudi government. One widely replicated tweet raged against coverage by Al Jazeera, owned by the government of Qatar, which has been at odds with Saudi Arabia.
Where is Khashoggi’s body?
Despite acknowledging the fact that Jamal Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi Consulate in Turkey, there still is silence on the whereabouts of his body. Meanwhile, Turkish investigators are likely to find out what happened to the body of Jamal Khashoggi before long, a senior official said on Saturday, after Saudi Arabia admitted for the first time that the journalist had been killed in its Istanbul consulate.
The official, who declined to be identified, also told Reuters that Khashoggi’s DNA samples were being procured from Turkey, meaning that investigators would not need to ask Saudi Arabia for samples at the moment.
Saudi Arabia said on Friday that Khashoggi had died in a “fistfight” inside its Istanbul consulate – Riyadh’s first acknowledgement of his death after two weeks of denials that it was involved in his disappearance.
The Saudi regime also announced a purge of senior officials including Saud al-Qahtani, an influential adviser to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and General Ahmed al-Asiri, a senior intelligence official. Both men have been fired. Eighteen Saudi nationals were said to have been arrested.
The announcement, which cited preliminary findings from an official investigation, was made on state television. The purge appeared to be aimed at insulating the crown prince and protecting his position. It was reported that he would remain overall head of intelligence.
California congressman Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said Saudi Arabia’s claim that Khashoggi was “killed while brawling with a team of more than a dozen dispatched from Saudi Arabia is not credible”.
Schiff said if Khashoggi was fighting inside the consulate, he was “fighting for his life with people sent to capture or kill him”.
Leaks from the Turkish authorities and independent reporting has shown that the kingdom’s most senior forensics expert was among a 15-man team sent from Riyadh on 2 October ahead of Khashoggi’s scheduled visit to the consulate.
They are reported to have brought a bone saw with them and the forensics expert, Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy, is said to have been recorded telling others to listen to music on headphones while he dismembered the body.
Samantha Power, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, said in a tweet: “They don’t get it. Shifting from bald-face lies (‘Khashoggi left consulate’) to faux condemnation (of a ‘rogue operation’) to claiming the wolf will credibly investigate what he did to the hen … will convince nobody.”