Khashoggi ‘threatened’ by Saudi official before death
Jamal Khashoggi felt threatened by people close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman before he was assassinated, said a close friend in his testimony to an Istanbul court on Nov. 24.
A second hearing of the trial was held in the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office in the absence of 26 Saudi suspects, including two former aides of the powerful Saudi crown prince, involved in the Washington Post columnist’s high-profile murder.
The 59-year-old journalist was strangled and dismembered inside the kingdom’s Istanbul consulate on Oct. 2, 2018. He went inside to get the documents for his marriage to Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz.
Ayman Nour, an Egyptian political dissident and longtime friend of Khashoggi, told the court that the journalist had described to him of being personally threatened by the Saudi media czar.
“I had known Khashoggi for about 30 years. We had worked together with him on a magazine project in London. He told me that he was threatened by al-Qahtani and his family. al-Qahtani is close to the Saudi royal family,” Nour said.
Noting that Khashoggi was living in Istanbul since 2015, Nour highlighted a meeting between Khashoggi and Crown Prince Mohammed.
“In 2016, Khashoggi told me that he was going to meet Mohammed. They quarreled about the next year’s budget. At the end of the meeting, as Khashoggi told me, Bin Salman asked him, ‘You are going to Istanbul so often. Why do you meet Ayman Nour?’ Khashoggi did not respond to the question,” Nour said.
“When Khashoggi came back to Turkey, he took a photo with me and posted on his social media account with a note, ‘Ayman is my old friend.’ This was his answer to Mohammed,” Nour said, adding that Mohammed knew he did not like him.
“I have media investments in Turkey. In 2017, Khashoggi called me from the U.S. and told me that he wanted to make statements. It was weird. We asked for many interviews, but he turned them down. Then he called and criticized the Saudi administration harshly,” Nour said in his testimony.
According to Nour, a week later, Khashoggi came to Istanbul and asked him not to broadcast that interview.
“I asked him, ‘Why?’ He said, ‘al-Qahtani called and has threatened me.’ He then started crying. I tried to calm him down,” Nour said.
“He then gave a new interview saying the opposite of what he said previously,” Nour added.
Nour also remarked on Khashoggi’s visits to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“He was going to marry his fiance, so he needed some papers. After his first visit to the consulate, he called me and said, ‘They acted nice and respected me. Should we tyrannize them by criticizing so much?’ One week later, he went to get the papers he needed. And that thing happened.”
Turkish prosecutors in March accused Saud al-Qahtani, a former senior adviser to Mohammed, and Ahmad al-Asiri, Saudi Arabia’s former deputy intelligence chief, with incitement to first-degree murder.
Further, some 18 Saudi nationals have been charged with premeditated murder. The prosecutors are seeking life sentences for all of the accused.
Khashoggi’s fiancee Cengiz also attended the hearing, which has been adjourned to March 4, 2021.