Saudi Arabia's full report on what happened to Jamal Khashoggi is not out yet, but here are the gaps in their version of events so far.
1) Saudi leaders, including Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself, have said that Khashoggi left the consulate freely, shortly after he entered, and that they have no knowledge of his fate.
There is no footage of Khashoggi leaving the consulate.
More to the point, could an operation like this have been undertaken without MBS' knowledge?
Saudi Arabia's national intelligence service was realigned to report directly to MBS.
Additionally, one of the 15-man team was Mohammad Saad Al Zahrani, a member of the Saudi Royal Guard. He had posted a picture of himself with MBS, that he has since deleted.
He added that "the members of the unit all hold different specialisations and ranks, but are affiliated with the unit" and was the "same unit used to arrest princes held in the Ritz Carlton, and outspoken preachers critical of the regime."
The Saudi version of the story so far gives no explanation for the 15 Saudis identified in the videos and photos.
The scale and complexity of the operation, as well as the inclusion of a Royal Guard member, implicates more than just a small 'rogue' outfit.
TRT World has previously reported that attempts to set up a firewall around MBS are underway, to distance himself from the scandal. While MBS has gone on record stating he knew nothing about Khashoggi's disappearance, no visible internal effort took place to identify those responsible.
2. Security camera footage was removed from the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, and all Turkish staff were told to take a holiday on the day Jamal Khashoggi disappeared while inside the building
The Saudi narrative gives no explanation or response to any of this.
3. The Kingdom has never assassinated its dissidents, at home or abroad.
The Saudi Gazette, an establishment paper, has repeatedly claimed that the disappearance is part of a smear campaign against Saudi Arabia, while emphasising that the Kingdom’s track record speaks for itself.
In reality, Jamal Khashoggi is not the first Saudi in exile to ‘disappear’.
Few remember exiled Nassir al Said who ran an opposition radio programme and disappeared from Beirut in 1979, never to be found.
Here are a few others:
- Prince Sultan bin Turki was kidnapped from Geneva in 2003, after calling for reform in Saudi Arabia.
- Prince Turki bin Bandar al Saud, who applied for asylum in France, 'disappeared' in 2015 after visiting Morocco. He had called for reforms in Saudi Arabia.
- Prince Saud bin Saif al Nasr criticised the Saudi Arabian monarchy while in exile. In 2015, he disappeared with no trace.
- Prince Khaled bin Farhan was a Saudi dissident living in Switzerland. Falling for a business offer from a Russian-Italian company, he was tricked onto a plane, abducted and imprisoned for seven years.
- Maj Gen Ali al Qahtani, an officer of the Saudi Arabian National Guard, died while in custody at a luxury hotel in Riyadh showing signs of abuse: a twisted neck and a badly swollen body after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s, also known as MBS, recent so-called anti-corruption drive.
4) Al-Arabiya reported that the leaked photos and videos of the 15 Saudis who arrived in Istanbul the day Khashoggi disappeared are, in fact, footage of "ordinary Saudi tourists."
"Pictures of innocent civilians are used to involve them and to fabricate a fictional story about the disappearance of Khashoggi,” it claimed.
But that narrative doesn’t add up. The 15 men arrived on two private jets, with two arriving on two commercial flights. They all arrived at the consulate 30 minutes before Khashoggi’s arrival. They all left at the same times, on private jets that ended up in Riyadh.
No explanation was given for the team’s short visit at the same time as Khashoggi’s disappearance, even after they became the focus of the investigation.
After denying any possible involvement, the official line quietly backtracked as reports emerged that Saudi officials will be summoning those Saudis present in Istanbul at the same time of the disappearance.
5) Cleaners were recorded entering the consulate moments after the announcement that Turkish investigators were set to arrive and carry out an inspection of the consulate.
Video cameras recorded a team of cleaners entering the consulate with several buckets of mops, Dixi cleaning solution, a carton of what appears to be bleach, and two cases of Pinar milk.
Saudi media has remained quiet on this point.
One week before the investigation, sources reported that Turkish authorities wanted to search the consulate with luminol, a chemical that reveals blood through a blue-white glow.
The cleaning crew was seen entering the consulate shortly before Turkish investigators were set to arrive to carry out an "inspection" in search of additional evidence.
You couldn’t make his up!!! Literally minutes after #Saudi authorities said Turkish investigators could enter the consulate - a cleaning team arrived and entered the building!!!! #JamalKjashoggi pic.twitter.com/ayXJjMmikU— Jamal Elshayyal جمال (@JamalsNews) October 15, 2018
Whether related or not, one thing is certain: bringing cleaners into a possible crime scene prior to an investigation is no way to build confidence in a possible crime scene's integrity prior to investigation.
As sources indicate that Saudi Arabia is preparing to admit to 'an interrogation gone wrong'.
It must be noted that this came a day after President Donald Trump quoted a denial from King Salman: "in a very firm way that they had no knowledge of it."
The list of unanswered questions only continues to grow, as the world waits on a convincing explanation from Saudi Arabia for Jamal Khashoggi's disappearance.