Rights group files complaint in Germany in Khashoggi killing

Rights group files complaint in Germany in Khashoggi killing

Film Review - The Dissident
This image released by Briarcliff Entertainment shows Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, left, with journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a scene from the documentary "The Dissident." (Briarcliff Entertainment via AP)

BERLIN: An international media rights group has filed a complaint with German prosecutors against Saudi Arabia's crown prince and four other top officials accusing them of crimes against humanity over allegations they were involved in the killing of US-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, authorities said on Tuesday (Mar 2).

The German federal prosecutors office in Karlsruhe told The Associated Press that it received the complaint from Paris-based Reporters Without Borders on Monday.

The complaint, relying partially on a newly declassified US intelligence report released on Friday, identifies five primary suspects: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, his close adviser Saud Al-Qahtani and three other high-ranking Saudi officials, Reporters Without Borders said.

They were identified for their “organisational or executive responsibility in Khashoggi's killing, as well as their involvement in developing a state policy to attack and silence journalists”, the group said in a statement.\

READ: US presses Saudis over Khashoggi killing amid calls to punish prince

In the US report, intelligence officials stopped short of saying the Saudi crown prince ordered Khashoggi’s slaying in Turkey in October 2018, but described him as having “absolute control” over the kingdom’s intelligence organisations and said it would have been highly unlikely for an operation like the killing to have been carried out without his approval.

Saudia Arabia's UN ambassador, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, on Monday disputed the report, saying it didn't come “anywhere close” to proof of any allegations against the crown prince.

Saudi Arabia's embassies in Berlin and Washington did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the Reporters Without Borders complaint.

Under the German legal system, anyone can file an allegation with prosecutors and there is an obligation for them to look into the accusations. It is up to them to determine then whether they justify launching a full investigation.

German law allows prosecutors to claim universal jurisdiction in crimes against humanity, and last week they secured the conviction of a former member of Syrian President Bashar Assad's secret police for his involvement in facilitating the torture of prisoners in his homeland.

In that case, however, the defendant had been living in Germany. The Khashoggi case has no obvious connections to the country.

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READ: Saudi crown prince 'approved' Khashoggi murder: US intelligence

“Those responsible for the persecution of journalists in Saudi Arabia, including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, must be held accountable for their crimes,” Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement. 

“While these serious crimes against journalists continue unabated, we call on the German prosecutor to take a stand and open an investigation into the crimes we have revealed."

The US document released on Friday said a 15-member Saudi team, including seven members of the prince’s elite personal protective team, arrived in Istanbul, though it says it’s unclear how far in advance Saudi officials had decided to harm him.

Khashoggi had gone to the Saudi consulate to pick up documents needed for his wedding. Once inside, he died at the hands of more than a dozen Saudi security and intelligence officials and others who had assembled ahead of his arrival. 

READ: Khashoggi fiancee demands punishment for Saudi prince

Surveillance cameras had tracked his route and those of his alleged killers in Istanbul in the hours before his killing.

A Turkish bug planted at the consulate reportedly captured the sound of a forensic saw, operated by a Saudi colonel who was also a forensics expert, dismembering Khashoggi’s body within an hour of his entering the building. The whereabouts of his remains is unknown.

Besides the crown prince and his adviser, the complaint names Saudi Arabi's former deputy head of intelligence Ahmad Mohammed Asiri; Mohammad Al-Otaibi, the Consul General in Istanbul at the time of the murder; and intelligence officer Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb.

Source: AP