Saudi Arabia Wants to Execute Five Agents Who Allegedly Killed Jamal Khashoggi Under Crown Prince's Orders

Saudi Arabia plans to seek the death penalty against several agents who allegedly killed journalist Jamal Khashoggi, despite widespread allegations that the operation was ordered by the kingdom's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

On Thursday, local English language newspaper Arab News reported that the kingdom's public prosecutor had finished its investigation into the death of the Saudi citizen, who was a columnist for The Washington Post and a resident of the United States. In total, 11 suspects are charged in connection to the murder and five could be executed.

Khashoggi was killed when he entered the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2. As many as 15 Saudi agents were reportedly waiting for him inside the diplomatic facility. They allegedly killed him shortly after he entered and then allegedly dismembered his body with a bone saw. The body has not been recovered, and Saudi officials initially denied any knowledge of the journalist's disappearance.

A man dressed as Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman with blood on his hands protests outside the Saudi Embassy, in Washington, D.C. on October 8. Demonstrators were demanding justice for murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

Weeks later, following international outcry, the kingdom eventually admitted that Khashoggi had been killed, with the kingdom's public prosecutor later announcing that his death was believed to be "premeditated." But Riyadh has attempted to distance Prince Mohammed and his father, King Salman, from any connection to the killing.

Deputy public prosecutor and spokesman Shaalan al-Shaalan told reporters that former deputy intelligence chief General Ahmed al-Asiri, who was removed from his position last month in the aftermath of the killing, was the person who ordered the attack, Reuters reported. However, Turkish investigators, as well as numerous intelligence officials and analysts have argued that the strike couldn't have been carried out without approval from the crown prince.

Khashoggi fled from Saudi Arabia last year and chose to live in self-imposed exile as Prince Mohammed implemented a crackdown on dissidents and activists. The journalist was often critical of the kingdom's ongoing war in Yemen, as well as the detainment of dissidents and activists.

A demonstrator holds a poster depicting Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi and a lit candle during a gathering outside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, on October 25. YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images

Although allegations linking the crown prince to the killing are unconfirmed and denied by Saudi officials, many analysts suggest that evidence increasingly points to his involvement. On Monday, The New York Times reported the existence of another tape reportedly held by Turkish investigators, in which a member of the kill squad can be heard saying in Arabic over the phone, "Tell your boss." According to the newspaper, American intelligence officials believe the person was referring to the crown prince, although he is not mentioned by name.

"A phone call like that is about as close to a smoking gun as you are going to get," Bruce O. Riedel, a former C.I.A. officer now at the Brookings Institution, told the Times. "It is pretty incriminating evidence."

President Donald Trump initially appeared reluctant to blame the crown prince directly, citing significant economic ties. But Republican and Democrat lawmakers have come out strongly against the Saudi royal in the wake of the killing. Last week, the president suggested that more punitive measures against Riyadh could be in the works.