The Saudi government hitmen who killed dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi are heard joking about dismembering human bodies on secret tapes that United Nations (UN) investigators have listened to.
In a recent BBC documentary to mark one year since Khashoggi’s murder, UN investigators Agnes Callamard and Helena Kennedy revealed the “chilling” and “callous” discussions the killers had before and after the murder.
Khashoggi, a former advocate of the Saudi royal court who later became a critic of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, was killed after being lured into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 and his body was dismembered by his murderers.
Kennedy said that the hitmen were heard in the recordings from inside of the Saudi mission referring to Khashoggi as “sacrificial animal”, adding, “There was a discussion about ‘Will the body and the hips fit into a bag this way?’”
“There was a point where you can hear Khashoggi moving from being a man who’s a confident person, towards a sense of fear, a sense of anxiety, rising anxiety, rising terror, and then knowing that something fatal is about to happen,” Kennedy noted.
According to the grim account, Khashoggi’s killers also joked about having “a coffee and cigar on hand” to butcher his body.
The tapes reveal the conversations between the leader of the hit squad, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb — a personal bodyguard of the Saudi crown prince — and Salah al Tubaigy, a forensic pathologist.
Callamard also said it was possible that Khashoggi believed he was only going to be kidnapped rather than murdered.
“He’s asking ‘Are you going to do that to me? Are you going to give me an injection?’... The sounds that are heard after that point indicate that he’s suffocated, probably with a plastic bag over his head,” Callamard added.
The UN investigators announced that the recordings also refuted Saudi Arabia’s claim that Khashoggi’s death was a “rogue” operation.
“There is no doubt in my mind that this was a seriously, highly organized mission coming from the top. This was not some flaky maverick operation,” Kennedy stated, noting, “Something treacherous and terrible happened in that embassy. The international community has a responsibility to insist on a high level judicial inquiry.”
The gruesome murder is believed to have been directly ordered by the crown prince. However, the Saudi government claims that the ill-fated journo was killed by a “rogue” group, denying that the crown prince had ordered the slaying.
According to a PBS documentary, MbS has claimed he did not order the murder, but, the world believes otherwise.
Turkey, which first offered recordings from inside of the Saudi consulate, has been most assertive about the case.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stated that “we know the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government”. While Erdogan has stopped short of naming Mohammad, he has said the order did not come from Saudi King Salman, the only person higher in nominal ranking than bin Salman in Saudi Arabia.