Media Rights Group Files Complaint in Germany Over Khashoggi Killing

Reporters Without Borders complaint identifies five primary suspects, inclding Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his close adviser

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A demonstrator dressed as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman protesting outside the Saudi Embassy in Washington, demanding justice for murdered dissident Jamal Khashoggi.
A demonstrator dressed as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman protesting outside the Saudi Embassy in Washington, demanding justice for murdered dissident Jamal Khashoggi.Credit: JIM WATSON - AFP

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 U.S.-based journalist Jamal Khashoggi, authorities said Tuesday.

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 U.S. intelligence report released 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 “organizational 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.

In the U.S. 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 organizations 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.

Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi, attends a news conference in Brussels, Belgium in 2019. Credit: Francois Lenoir/ REUTERS

Crimes against humanity

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.

“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 U.S. document released 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. 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 Arabia'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.

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