"It's not surprising at all, but there is something extra evil about ordering the death of a bunch of people who tortured and murdered a dissident on your orders while you pretend you had nothing to do with it."
That was the sharp reaction from MSNBC's Chris Hayes after news emerged Thursday that while Saudi Arabia would continue to shield Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman from responsiblity, the nation's top court prosecutor would seek the death penalty against five members of the "murder team" that assassinated, and then dismembered, journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul, Turkey last month.
While a full and transparent investigation has yet to be conducted—and the video and audio evidence the Turkish government possesses yet to be made public—reports have strongly suggested the likelihood that the crown prince was directly responsible for ordering the mission and knew the murder of Khashoggi was its goal or a likely outcome:
It's not surprising at all, but there is something extra evil about ordering the death of a bunch of people who tortured and murdered a dissident on your orders while you pretend you had nothing to do with it.
— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) November 15, 2018
Responding to the latest statement by the Saudis on Thursday, Turkey's foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, called it completely insufficient in terms of admitting guilt and said it betrayed the facts and earlier statements acknowledging the murder had been premeditated. "The necessary equipment and people were previously brought in to kill and later dismember him," he said.
Speaking with The Independent, a Turkish source familiar with the thinking in Ankara described the statement by the Saudi prosecutor as "a great work of fiction" that nobody in the Turkish government is buying. The Saudis, the source said, "wants the world to believe that a group of goons just felt like killing the most prominent non-royal Saudi in the world."
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Meanwhile, in an editorial published late in the day Thursday, the Washington Post, where Khashoggi was employed as a contributor, the newspaper condemned the Saudis' latest story about the murder as well as the Trump administration's continued willingness to play along with it:
By offering up this incredible account, the Saudi regime is baldly defying all those, including leading members of Congress, who called for full disclosure and accountability. Yet the Trump administration appears ready to accept its stonewalling. On Thursday, it announced sanctions against 17 people implicated by the Saudis — leaving untouched both the crown prince and top intelligence officials in Riyadh.
Accepting the Saudi story means ignoring a number of well-established facts. An audio recording of Mr. Khashoggi’s last moments, which Turkish officials shared with CIA Director Gina Haspel, indicates he was attacked and strangled immediately after entering the consulate. The Saudi version claims he died only after a quarrel and a struggle that prompted the head of the "negotiation team" to decide to murder him by injecting him with drugs.
The Post continued by saying the Saudi's "all-too-transparent tissue of lies only underlines the need for a genuinely independent international investigation led by the United Nations" and castigating the Trump administration for "abetting the Saudi coverup" with the toothless sanctions annnounced by the Treasury Department on Thursday.
"Congress should not allow this travesty to continue. It should suspend all military sales and cooperation with Saudi Arabia until a credible international investigation of the Khashoggi killing is completed," the editorial concluded. "The Saudi cover story is just one more instance of Mohammed bin Salman’s arrogant and reckless behavior. The true murderers of Jamal Khashoggi must be named and punished."