A transcript of an audio recording of Jamal Khashoggi’s final moments has revealed details of the journalist’s murder. The Saudi foreign minister has rejected demands to extradite two suspects connected to the death.
Jamal Khashoggi’s last words were “I can’t breathe,” CNN reported Sunday, citing a source who had read the transcript of an audio recording of the murder inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
The source told CNN the translated transcript provided by Turkish intelligence made it clear there was “no botched rendition attempt, but the execution of a premeditated plan to murder the journalist” in early October.
In one of the many explanations Saudi officials have provided for the murder, they said The Washington Post contributor had been accidentally choked and killed in a rogue operation. Turkish officials have said a 15-man hit team was sent to Istanbul to kill the journalist.
The transcript indicates there was a struggle after someone believed to be Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a former diplomat and intelligence official close to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, tells Khashoggi “You are coming back” to Saudi Arabia.
According to the CNN source, the transcript reveals Khashoggi said he could not breathe three times before there were screams and gasping.
The transcript continues to note noises heard on the tape, including the sounds of a saw and cutting. One of the voices, believed to be Salah Muhammad al-Tubaiqi, the head of forensic medicine at Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry, is heard to give members of the team advice to help them deal with the task: “Put your earphones in, or listen to music like me.”
According to the CNN source, the transcript also noted a series of calls made to someone in Riyadh providing updates on the situation. US officials have indicated the calls were likely made to Saud al-Qahtani, a former close aide to the crown prince.
Turkish officials have not said how they obtained the recording from inside the consulate.
The fresh revelations about the October 2 murder are likely to add further pressure on Prince Mohammed, who the CIA and Turkish intelligence believe was likely involved in the murder.
Despite the intelligence assessments, the Trump administration has sought to shield its Middle East ally even as members of Congress are mulling action against Saudi Arabia over the murder and the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
The CNN source said there is no “smoking gun” in the transcript tying any of the conversations to the crown prince. However, the CIA assessment leaked to US press indicates that intelligence agency analysts believe it would be highly unlikely for an operation against Khashoggi to be carried out without the prince’s knowledge.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who was briefed by CIA chief Gina Haspel, said earlier this week that he agreed with the US intelligence assessment.
“There’s not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw,” he told reporters.
No extradition over murder: Saudi foreign minister
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Sunday said Riyadh would not extradite two former Saudi officials as demanded by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Earlier this week, the Istanbul chief public prosecutor’s office asked a court to issue arrest warrants for Saud al-Qahtani and Ahmed al-Assiri, a former deputy chief of the intelligence service, over “strong suspicion” they were among those who planned the murder.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Sunday that his country does not hand over its wanted citizens, Saudi-owned television al-Arabiya reported. “We don’t extradite our citizens,” he said at a press conference in Riyadh.
Last month, Saudi Arabia said it would seek the death penalty for five out of 11 Saudi nationals indicted in relation to Khashoggi’s death.