RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia's crown prince said he bears responsibility for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year by Saudi operatives "because it happened under my watch," according to a PBS documentary to be broadcast next week.
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attends a meeting with the U.S.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, September 18, 2019. Mandel Ngan / Pool via REUTERS
Mohammed bin Salman, the kingdom's de facto ruler, has not spoken publicly about killing inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The CIA and some Western governments have said it ordered it, but Saudi officials say it had no roll.
The death sparked a global uproar, tarnishing the crown prince's image and imperiling ambitious plans to diversify the economy of the world's top oil exporter and open up cloistered Saudi society. He has not visited the United States or Europe.
“It happened under my watch. I get all the responsibility because it happened under my watch, ”he told PBS 'Martin Smith, according to a preview of the documentary," The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, "set to air on Oct. 1, ahead of the one-year anniversary of Khashoggi's death.
After the initial denials, the official Saudi narrative blamed the murder on rogue operatives. The public prosecutor said the then-deputy intelligence chief ordered the repatriation of Khashoggi, a royal insider who became an outspoken critic, but the lead negotiator ordered him killed after discussions for his return failed.
Saud al-Qahtani, a former top royal lawyer to whom Reuters reportedly gave orders over Skype to the killers, briefed the hit team on Khashoggi's activities before the operation, the prosecutor said.
Asked how the killing could happen without him knowing about it, Smith quotes Prince Mohammed as saying: “We have 20 million people. We have 3 million government employees. ”
Smith asked if the killers could have taken private government jets, to which crown prince responded:“ I have officials, ministers to follow things, and answer responsible. They have the authority to do that. ”Smith describes the December exchange, which apparently took place off camera, in the preview of the documentary.
A senior U.S. The administration officially told Reuters in June the Trump administration was pushing Riyadh for “tangible progress” toward holding to account those behind the killing ahead.
Eleven Saudi suspects have been put on trial in secret proceedings but only a few hearings have been held. And the U.N. report has been called for Prince Mohammed and other senior Saudi officials to be investigated.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was last seen at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, where he was receiving papers ahead of his wedding. His body was reportedly dismembered and removed from the building, and his remains have not been found.
Reporting by Stephen Kalin; Editing by Gerry Doyle