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TIMELINE OF THE MURDER OF JAMAL KHASHOGGI AND ITS AFTERMATH

Saudi agents and consular officials carried out the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018.

According to the CIA and other intelligence agencies, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered, planned and oversaw the extrajudicial execution. This timeline of the murder and its aftermath incorporates condensed sections of the Report of the UN Special Rapporteur Agnes Callamard, entitled, Annex to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions: Investigation into the unlawful death of Mr. Jamal Khashoggi, released on June 19, 2019. 

We have condensed the extensive Report, and we have added our own sections to include events not covered by the Report, including events that occurred after the Report’s release. To distinguish between the Special Rapporteur’s Report and our additions, we have put our additions in blue-tinted text.

I. Before the Murder

1. Jamal Khashoggi went into a self-imposed exile in September 2017, leaving Saudi Arabia for the United States.

2. In August 2018, Khashoggi’s fiancé Hatice Cengiz told him that to be married in Turkey, where she is from, he needed to obtain a certificate of marriage eligibility from the Saudi authorities.

3. In August-September, Khashoggi contacted the Saudi Embassy in Washington to obtain the certificate and was told to obtain the document from the Saudi Consulate in Turkey.

4. On September 28, Khashoggi and Ms. Cengiz went to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Consular officials told Khashoggi that he would need to return on October 2, 2018 to obtain the marriage document.

II. Planning and Preparations

5. On October 1 and the early hours of October 2, 2018, 15 Saudi officials arrived in Istanbul. The following is a list of the 15 Saudi officials, along with their government positions:

  • Mansour Othman Abuhussain, Intelligence Officer, Office of the Crown Prince

  • Naif Hasan Alarifi, First Lieutenant, Office of the Crown Prince

  • Mohamed Saad Alzahrani, Member of the Crown Prince’s Security Team

  • Khalid Aedh Alotaibi, Member of the Crown Prince’s Security Team

  • Abdulaziz Mohammed Alhawsawi, Member of the Crown Prince’s Security Team

  • Meshal Saad Albostani, First Lieutenant, Saudi Air Force

  • Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, Intelligence Officer, Office of the Crown Prince

  • Waleed Abdullah Alshehri, Wing Commander, Royal Saudi Airforce

  • Fahad Shabib Albalawi, Member of the Crown Prince’s Security Team

  • Badr Lafi Alotaibi, Major, Saudi Intelligence Agency

  • Dr. Salah Mohammed Tubaigy, Forensic Doctor, Saudi Interior Ministry

  • Mustafa Mohammed Almadani, Brigadier General, Saudi Intelligence Agency

  • Thaar Ghaleb Alharbi, Lieutenant, Saudi Royal Guard

  • Saif Saad Alqahtani, Training Specialist in the Saudi Air Force

  • Turki Musharraf Alshehri, Planning and Communication Expert, Saudi Intelligence Agency

III. The Disappearance and Murder of Jamal Khashoggi

6. The Saudi Consul General ordered non-Saudi staff at the Consulate to either not report to work on October 2 or to leave the Consulate at noon.

7. According to recordings provided by Turkish intelligence, on October 2, at 1:02 pm, Mutreb and Dr. Tubaigy had a conversation just minutes before Khashoggi entered. Mutreb asked whether it will “be possible to put the trunk in a bag?” Dr. Tubaigy replied “No. Too heavy.”  Dr. Tubaigy expressed hope that it would “be easy. Joints will be separated. It is not a problem. The body is heavy. First time I cut on the ground. If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished. We will wrap each of them.”

8. At 1:15 pm, Khashoggi entered the Consulate by himself, after leaving his phones with Ms. Cengiz, who remained outside. Turkish Intelligence assessed that he may have been dead within ten minutes after entering the Consulate.

9. According to the recordings, Khashoggi appears to have been met by someone he knew.  In the recordings, sounds of a struggle can be heard, followed by sounds of heavy panting, then a saw.

10. At 3:53 pm, Almadani and Alqahtani exited from the Consulate’s back door.  Almadani wore what appeared to be Khashoggi clothes. Alqahtani had a white plastic bag with him.

11. At 4:41 pm, Ms. Cengiz phoned Khashoggi’s emergency contact Yasin Aktai. She explained that Khashoggi had entered the Saudi Consulate but had not returned. Aktai contacted the Office of President Erdogan.  Ms. Cengiz also spoke by telephone to DAWN’s Executive Director Sarah Leah Whitson, who was at the time Director of the Middle East and North Africa Division of Human Rights Watch.  Ms. Whitson urged Cengiz to call the police and to stay where she was.

12. A private plane operated by Sky Prime Aviation, a jet charter company based in Riyadh, landed in Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport at 5:15 pm.

13. Mutreb and five others, Alotaibi, W. Alshehri, T. Alshehri, Albalawi, and Alharbi, boarded the plane, which departed at 6:30 pm.

14. Seven of the other Saudi officials left Turkey at 10:54 pm on a Sky Prime Aviation plane.

15. Two of the other Saudi officials left Turkey on the early morning of October 3, leaving Istanbul at 1:25 am on a Turkish Airlines flight bound for Riyadh.

IV. Initial Reactions and the Beginning of Turkey’s Investigative Process

16. According to Turkey’s Chief Public Prosecutor, the Turkish authorities opened an investigation into the disappearance of Khashoggi on the evening of October 2, after Ms. Cengiz called the local police about Khashoggi’s disappearance.

17. On October 3, Saudi Arabia issued a statement to the Associated Press claiming that Khashoggi had left the Consulate. The statement read, “Khashoggi visited the Consulate to request paperwork related to his marital status and exited shortly thereafter.” Ibrahim Kalin, a spokesman for President Erdogan, contradicted the Saudi statement later that evening. Kalin stated, “According to the information we have, this person who is a Saudi citizen is still at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. We don’t have information to the contrary.”

18. On October 4, Turkey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs summoned Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador Waleed Elhereiji to Ankara, over the disappearance of Khashoggi.

19. On October 5, Saudi Consular staff drove the mission vehicle allegedly used to transport Khashoggi’s remains to a carwash.

20. On October 5, in an interview with Bloomberg News, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman insisted that Khashoggi had left the Consulate and that the Saudi authorities were working with their Turkish counterparts to identify what happened. “We hear the rumors about what happened. He’s a Saudi citizen and we are very keen to know what happened to him. And we will continue our dialogue with the Turkish government to see what happened to Jamal there.”

21. On the evening of October 6, Turkish officials communicated to the press that, “The initial assessment of the Turkish police is that Khashoggi has been killed at the Consulate of Saudi Arabia in Istanbul. We believe that the murder was premeditated, and the body was subsequently moved out of the Consulate.” 

V. Saudi Arabia’s continual denials

22. On October 7, the Saudi Press Agency published a statement from an unnamed Saudi official dismissing reports that Khashoggi had been killed in the Consulate. “The official strongly denounced these baseless allegations, and expressed his doubt that they came from Turkish officials that are informed of the investigation or are authorized to comment on the issue.”

23. On October 8, the Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Prince Khalid bin Salman, denied all allegations of the Saudi government’s involvement in Khashoggi’s disappearance. “I assure you that the reports that suggest that Jamal Khashoggi went missing in the Consulate in Istanbul or that the Kingdom’s authorities have detained him or killed him are absolutely false and baseless.”

24. On October 10, Turkey’s newspaper the Daily Sabah released the names, photos and other details about the 15 Saudi officials suspected of involvement in the killing of Khashoggi.

25. On October 11, Al Arabiya, a Saudi-owned media company, reported that the 15 Saudi suspects were tourists falsely accused of killing Khashoggi. The article was in line with two other Al Arabiya articles, published on October 8 and 10, which labeled Khashoggi’s disappearance as “fake news.”

26. On October 11, the Turkish authorities announced that Turkey and Saudi Arabia had agreed to form a joint working group to determine what happened to Khashoggi.

27. On October 12, the Turkish Prosecutor sought a search warrant.  In the meantime, at 2:45 pm, three men allegedly belonging to the Mabahith “Technical Team” entered the Saudi Consulate.  They remained in the Consulate all day and night, eventually leaving it on October 13, at 8:00 am.  Turkish Intelligence alleged that the team conducted a cleanup of the crime scene.

28. On October 15, United States President Donald Trump tweeted that he had spoken to the Crown Prince who had denied knowledge of “whatever happened to Khashoggi.”  Later in the day, commenting on his conversation with the Crown Prince, President Trump said, “I don’t want to get into his mind — but it sounded to me like maybe these could have been rogue killers. Who knows? We’re going to try getting to the bottom of it very soon. But his was a flat denial.”

VI. Saudi Arabia’s admission and arrests

29. On October 19, in a statement on Saudi state television, the country’s Chief Prosecutor admitted that Khashoggi had been killed in the Consulate. He said that a fistfight had broken out between Khashoggi and Saudi officials in the Consulate, which led to Khashoggi’s death.

30. On October 21, in an interview with Fox News, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir explained that it took 18 days to confirm Khashoggi’s death because the Saudi authorities had reports indicating that he had left the Consulate.  “Even the senior leadership for the intelligence services was not aware of this,” Minister al Jebeir stated. “This was a rogue operation. This was an operation where individuals ended up exceeding the authorities and responsibilities they had. They made a mistake when they killed Khashoggi in the Consulate and they tried to cover up for it.”

31. That same day, Saudi authorities announced that they had detained 18 individuals as suspects in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. The suspects included the 15 individuals identified by Turkey, as well as three Consular security attachés.

VII. The Turkish investigation continues

32. On October 25, Saudi Arabia’s Office of the Attorney General declared that it had determined that the killing of Khashoggi was premeditated.

33. On November 4, Khashoggi’s sons, Salah and Abduallah Khashoggi, asked the Saudi authorities to return their father’s body so they could perform a traditional burial. The Saudi authorities did not return his body and have yet to explain what happened to Khashoggi’s body or where it is. His killers are believed to have dismembered and disposed of it.

34. On November 5, the Third Criminal Court in Istanbul issued arrest warrants for the 15 Saudi officials and three members of the Consular staff. The same day, the Chief Public Prosecutor issued extradition requests for the 18.

VIII. Indictments and trials in Saudi Arabia

35. On November 15, Saudi Deputy Public Prosecutor Shalaan Alshalaan announced that the Saudi authorities had detained 21 individuals in relation to Khashoggi’s killing and indicted 11. He added that the Prosecutor’s Office would seek the death penalty for five of those detained.

36. The Prosecutor asserted that five individuals had confessed to the murder.  After the murder, “the victim’s body was dismembered by the individuals that have committed the murder and was transferred outside the Consulate building.”

37. On January 3, 2019, the Saudi Press Agency issued a statement from the Saudi Public Prosecutor advising that an initial hearing concerning the eleven indicted individuals had been held in the Criminal Court of Riyadh. In the statement, the Prosecutor noted there was a continuing investigation into the culpability of other suspects in custody and noted that the Turkish Public Prosecutor had yet to respond to their letters requesting access to evidence relevant to the killing.  The Special Rapporteur learned from interviews that representatives of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Turkey had attended the hearings. Shalaan al-Shalaan, a spokesman for the Saudi public prosecutor said Khashoggi’s two sons also attended the trial along with their lawyers. Special Rapporteur Callamard reported that those invited to the trial had to agree not to disclose anything about the proceedings, and that “observers were summoned on short notice and barred from bringing interpreters.”

38. The Special Rapporteur was informed by various governments’ sources that the eleven individuals on trial in Saudi Arabia include the following persons, with the first five facing death penalty: 

  • Fahad Shabib Albalawi

  • Turki Muserref Alshehri

  • Waleed Abdullah Alshehri

  • Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb

  • Salah Mohammed Tubaigy

  • Mansour Othman Abahussain 

  • Mohammed Saad Alzahrani 

  • Mustafa Mohammed Almadani 

  • Saif Saad Alqahtani

  • Muflih Shaya Almuslih 

  • Ahmad Mohammed Asiri

39. On January 15, 2019, Istanbul’s Chief Public Prosecutor followed-up the 16 November request for the Saudi Prosecutor to share copies of the indictments and noted that at the current stage of its investigation, “it has become necessary to request a copy of all records and documents in the case file including the statements of suspects, the statements of witnesses, the indictment, the interrogation records, the minutes of hearing and the official correspondences within the investigation and the proceedings conducted by the Judicial Authorities of Saudi Arabia.”

40. On January 31, a second hearing took place in Saudi Arabia. According to interviews conducted by the Special Rapporteur, this hearing was attended by a legal representative of Mr. Khashoggi’s family.  Mr. Asiri was present, but his lawyer did not attend the hearing. At this second hearing, the suspects’ lawyers claimed that the defendants were state employees and could not object to the orders of their superiors. Mr. Turki, Mr. Albaladwi, and Mr. W. Alshehri said that Mr. Khashoggi started screaming, so they covered his mouth to prevent him from making noise, which resulted in them accidentally killing him. Mr. Almadani, the Saudi operative who pretended to be Mr. Khashoggi, said that it “was his duty” to do it. Mr. Asiri conceded that he had ordered the team to convince Mr. Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia but had never ordered the use of force.

41. In February, reports surfaced that the Saudi Public Prosecutor had hired Kroll, a large private security firm, to conduct a forensic examination of a cell phone belonging to Mr. Alqahtani, the Crown Prince’s Adviser. The review focused on WhatsApp messages exchanged between the Crown Prince and Mr. Alqahtani on October 2 and 3, 2018.  The report did not consider conversations that the two might have had using other devices applications or channels. According to the Wall Street Journal, which saw a draft of the Kroll Report, one message had been deleted from Mr. Alqahtani’s phone.  Kroll was advised by the Saudi Public Prosecutor that, “Mr. Qahtani had sent that message, realized it contained a typographical error, deleted it and then sent a corrected message.”   After reviewing the report, the Saudi Public Prosecutor concluded that none of the WhatsApp messages exchanged between Crown Prince Mohammed and Mr. Alqahtani concerned Mr. Khashoggi or his murder. The Kroll report has not been made public.

42. On March 17, at a follow-up Court hearing, according to interviews conducted by the Special Rapporteur, Mr. Almuslih claimed that he had no knowledge that the car he drove from the Consulate to the Residence contained Mr. Khashoggi’s remains. Allegedly, it was only after his arrest that he learned that he had transported Mr. Khashoggi’s remains. Mr. Albalawi said that Mr. Mutreb ordered him to dissect Mr. Khashoggi’s body. The next hearing was scheduled for March 24.

43. According to reports, the Saudi court held a total of nine hearings over a period of almost one year before rendering a verdict. However, since the Saudis held the trial in secret, no information is publicly available about what transpired during these hearings, what evidence the prosecutors presented, or whether the defendants or any witnesses testified. Embassy observers reported that ten of the eleven defendants didn’t wear handcuffs during the hearings and that they seemed relaxed during the proceedings.

44. On December 23, 2019, the Riyadh Criminal Court announced its verdict in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, sentencing five of the eleven defendants to death for their involvement in the murder, and three others to prison terms for covering up the murder. The Court didn’t provide the names of the eight men found guilty, but various sources, including Special Rapporteur Callamard, revealed the names of those found guilty and their sentences. The five sentenced to death in the Saudi trial were: Salah Mohammed Tubaigy, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, Fahad Shabib Albalawi, Turki Muserref Alshehri, and Waleed Abdullah Alshehri.

45. The three sentenced to prison terms were found guilty “for their role in covering up this crime and violating the law.” The Court sentenced Mansour Abu Hussain to 10 years for lying to his superiors to hide the killing. Two others were sentenced to seven-year terms: Mustafa al-Madani, who served as Khashoggi’s body double, exiting the Consulate shortly after the murder dressed in Khashoggi’s clothes in an unsuccessful attempt to deflect suspicion; and Saif Saad al-Qahtani (not to be confused with the mastermind of the murder Saud al-Qahtani).

46. The Deputy Public Prosecutor Shalaan al-Shalaan said that the Court dismissed charges against three of the eleven defendants, finding them not guilty. Among those acquitted was Ahmed al-Asiri, the former deputy intelligence chief. The Prosecutor had previously dropped charges against MBS’s former aide Saud al-Qahtani, “due to insufficient evidence.” Saudi Consul Mohammed al-Otaibi, who provided a tour of the Istanbul Consulate to reporters after Khashoggi’s murder, was also acquitted.

47. In announcing the verdict, Deputy Prosecutor Shalaan stated that the investigation established that “the killing was not premeditated. The decision was taken at the spur of the moment.”

48. International observers criticized the conduct of the trial. On December 23, 2019, the same day the verdict was announced, Amnesty International described the verdict as a “whitewash which brings neither justice nor the truth for Jamal Khashoggi and his loved ones.” On the same day, Fred Ryan, the publisher of the Washington Post, wrote: “The complete lack of transparency and the Saudi government’s refusal to cooperate with independent investigators suggests that this was merely a sham trial.” UN Special Rapporteur Agnės Callamard tweeted, “the masterminds not only walk free, they have barely been touched by the investigation and the trial. That is the antithesis of justice. It is a mockery.” James Smith, a former U.S. Ambassador to the Saudi Arabia, stated that, “this episode will forever tarnish his [MBS’] reputation and the reputation of Saudi Arabia.”

49. The Trump Administration praised the Saudi verdict. On December 23rd, the same day of the verdict, a senior Administration official, speaking anonymously, called the verdict “an important step in holding those responsible for the terrible crime accountable.”

50. On December 23, 2019, the day of the verdict, Khashoggi’s son Salah Khashoggi, who lives in Saudi Arabia, tweeted his support for the trial. “We confirm our faith in the Saudi judiciary at all levels and in its giving us justice and ensuring fairness.”

51. Five months after the verdict, on May 21 2020, Salah Khashoggi tweeted: “We, sons of the martyr Jamal Khashoggi, announce that we forgive those who killed our father.” Prior to the tweet of May 21, the Saudi government had given the Khashoggi children tens of thousands of dollars and millions in real estate as compensation for their father’s killing.

52. The family member’s forgiveness in the case of intentional murder commutes the death sentence, but does not erase the conviction. On September 7, 2020, Saudi State media reported a court had handed 20-year sentences to five people, while three others were sentenced to between seven to 10 years. 

53. On May 21, 2020, Khashoggi’s former fiancé Ms. Cengiz tweeted, “Nobody has the right to pardon the killers. We will not pardon the killers nor those who ordered the killing.”

IX. Other Saudi measures

54. On March 14, 2019, Bandar bin Mohammed Alaiban, the Head of the Saudi Human Rights Commission, delivered remarks to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva in which he stated that Saudi Arabia has taken the measures required “for us to resolve this heinous crime.”  He added that Saudi Arabia would not accept calls to “internationalize” the ongoing legal proceedings, which would be perceived as foreign interference with domestic affairs. 55. On April 1, 2019, media reports surfaced stating that Mr. Khashoggi’s children had received large financial packages from the Saudi government. The Special Rapporteur learned of these allegations from other sources as well.

55. On April 10, 2019, Salah Khashoggi, Mr. Khashoggi’s son, rejected the claim that a settlement has been reached. “The trial is taking place and no settlement discussion had been or is discussed. The people who committed and were involved in this crime will all be brought to justice and face punishment.” At the same time, he noted that King Salman and the Crown Prince “are considered and regarded as guardians of all Saudis. Acts of generosity and humanity come from the high moral grounds they possess, not admission of guilt or scandal.”

X. Turkish indictment and trial

56. On March 25, 2020, Turkish officials announced the indictment of 20 Saudi nationals on charges of murder and incitement to murder in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

57. The Turkish indictment charged a total of 20 people, accusing two men Ahmed al-Asiri and Saud al-Qahtani, former aides to Crown Prince MBS, of incitement to deliberate killing through torture, and accusing the following 18 men of torture and deliberate murder: Mansour Othman M. Abahussain, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, Salah Mohammed al-Tubaigy, Mustafa Mohammed M. Almadani, Saif Saad al-Qahtani, Thaar Ghaleb T. al-Harbi, Badr Lafi al-Otaibi, Turki Musharraf M. Alshehri, Fahad Shabib A. Albalawi, Waleed Abdullah M. Alshehri, Mohammad Saad al-Zahrani, Naif Hassan Saad al-Arifi, Abdulaziz Mohammed al-Hawsawi, Khalid Aedh G. Alotaibi, Saad Meshal al-Bostani, Muflih Shaya M. Almuslih, Ahmed Abdullah A. Almuzaini and Saad Muid Alqarni.

58. The Turkish indictment was based on evidence from cell-phone location data, records of defendants’ movements, searches of defendants’ hotel rooms, the Consulate and the Consul’s residence, searches of Khashoggi’s cell phone, laptop and iPad, and witness statements.

59. The Turkish trial was the first public legal inquiry. It began on July 3, 2020, at Istanbul’s Heavy Penal Court No. 11. Saudi Arabia declined the Turkish prosecutor’s extradition requests. Lawyers of the Saudi defendants, assigned by the Turkish Bar, said that they were unable to reach their clients. Accordingly, the trial was held in absentia.

60. During the first hearing, which lasted almost four hours, Khashoggi’s former fiancé Ms. Cengiz, Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and workers from the Saudi Consulate testified. Ms. Cengiz described how she learned that something had gone very wrong in the Consulate. Ms. Cengiz testified that, “Someone of 25 to 30 years old came out. He had an anxiety-inducing, fearful facial expression. He said, ‘I checked the rooms, there’s nobody,’ but he couldn’t look at my face.  At that moment, I experienced a fear I had never experienced before in my life. It wasn’t only fear, it was horror.” She said that the Consulate employee who told Khashoggi to come to the Consulate on October 2 was named Ekrem Sultan. She stated: “They summoned him with great betrayal and trickery.”

61. Yasin Aktay, adviser to President Erdogan and close friend of Khashoggi, testified that Khashoggi’s criticism of Prince Mohammed and his policies, and his activities, including his role as head of DAWN, angered the Saudi government. “The activities of the association [DAWN] made the government of Saudi Arabia angry,” Aktay stated. “To them, democracy is like a curse.”

62. Several Turkish workers at the Consulate testified that they were ordered not to go to the Consul’s residence on the day of the murder. Zeki Demir, Turkish citizen and handyman at the Consulate, said he was called to the Consul’s residence at 2 p.m and asked to light an oven. Demir stated: “There was an air of panic … it was as if they wanted me to leave as soon as possible.” He stated that he returned to the Consulate several days later and observed the marble around the oven had been bleached.

63. Special Rapporteur Callamard attended the Turkish trial. On July 3, she expressed hope for the precedent the Turkish trial might set: “If the process works, what this trial will… strengthen is the possibility of universal jurisdiction.”

64. One commentator highlighted the political nature of Erdogan’s motivation in staging the trial, stating that Erdogan is pursuing “a proxy war on several political and regional levels with the Saudi Crown Prince … and will be seeking a verdict that damages his rival.”

65. Amnesty International’s Andrew Gardner stated: “This trial and other efforts by the Turkish authorities have been important in keeping the murder in the spotlight, not allowing it to be forgotten.”

66. The next trial hearing is scheduled to take place on November 24, 2020 in Istanbul.

"How can we progress as a nation when those offering constructive feedback and (often humorous) dissent are banished?"

- JAMAL KHASHOGGI, Washington Post, October 31, 2017