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Saudis shield crown prince as death penalty sought over Khashoggi murder

Saudi prosecutor recommends death penalty for five suspects over killing of journalist

Saudi Arabia says it will pursue the death penalty for five suspects charged with ordering and carrying out the killing of the Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, in the latest effort to distance the country’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, from the grisly murder.

The Saudi public prosecutor claimed Saudi agents, including the head of forensics at the national intelligence service and members of Prince Mohammed’s security detail, had orders to abduct Khashoggi but decided to kill him when he resisted. The claim had been contradicted by an earlier Saudi finding that the murder was premeditated.

Prince Mohammed was not implicated in the murder, a spokesman for the prosecutor said. Turkey has been formally asked to hand over audio tapes that allegedly capture the journalist’s death, he added.

Hours later, the US Treasury said it was imposing sanctions against 17 alleged conspirators, in an announcement that appeared timed to support the Saudi version of events. The Trump administration has attempted to shield Prince Mohammed from blame, and sponsored the theory that “rogue actors” had carried out the plot without his knowledge.

The announcements follow growing international outcry over the killing of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist last seen entering the consulate on 2 October to obtain paperwork for his marriage.

Almost seven weeks later, who ordered the exiled journalist’s death remains central to the scandal.

Turkey believes approval was given by Prince Mohammed himself, and has continued its efforts to isolate the designated heir to the throne through a damning drip-feed of evidence that has placed the conspiracy at the doors of the royal court.

On Thursday Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, described the Saudi statement as insufficient and insisted the killing had been premeditated.

“The necessary equipment and people were previously brought in to kill and later dismember him,” he said.

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