Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) said in an interview published Wednesday that he deserves “all the responsibility” for the death of Jamal Khashoggi, but denied any involvement in the killing.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, was killed in a Saudi embassy in Turkey last year by Saudi agents operating on behalf of the government. The Saudi regime initially denied that Khashoggi had died when he disappeared in October 2018, but later changed its story and claimed Khashoggi died violently in an interrogation gone wrong.
Khashoggi was a vocal critic of the Saudi regime, but exhibited Islamist sympathies and was a member of the Muslim Brotherhood.
Speaking to PBS’s Martin Smith for an interview with the network’s program Frontline, MBS stated that, as the nation’s crown prince and defense chief, among other titles, he deserves blame for the death, but denies that he ordered the assassination of a political dissident.
“It happened under my watch,” the Saudi leader said. “I get all the responsibility, because it happened under my watch.” As Smith pressed the prince, he attempted to divert direct responsibility by citing the sheer number of people in his service.
“We have 20 million people. We have 3 million government employees,” bin Salman said.
“And they can take one of your planes?” Smith asked, in reference to the Saudi jets that reportedly transported the 15-man team responsible for Khashoggi’s death and dismemberment to and from Istanbul. “I have officials, ministers to follow things, and they’re responsible, they have the authority to do that,” MBS said.
Khashoggi’s gruesome killing and consequent dismemberment triggered a controversy of international proportions. Bin Salman’s regime first denied Khashoggi’s killing entirely after being accused of ordering the murder, later shifting to his present stance: that Khashoggi was killed, but not on MBS’s orders or anyone else’s. Instead, a “rogue” government element went overboard in an interrogation, the Saudi regime claims.
The Washington Post columnist was invited to the Istanbul consulate to obtain papers to finalize his divorce and marry his Turkish fiance, Hatice Cengiz. Evidence that has since surfaced indicates Saudi agents abducted, drugged, and strangled him to death, later dismembering him to hide the evidence. Several sensational stories about his killing surfaced in Turkish media, attributed to Turkish government agents, including alleged audio of the killing. Islamist Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has used Khashoggi’s death to disparage Saudi Arabia and make a bid for Turkey to take the role of leader of the Muslim world.
The Saudi government asserted in March that Khashoggi’s killers had been “brought to justice,” but has not revealed their identities.
The interview snippet will be featured as part of a larger PBS documentary titled The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, premiering on October 1.