In his final words, Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi urged his killers not to cover his mouth because he had asthma and could suffocate, according to Turkey’s Sabah newspaper.
The newspaper, which is close to Turkey’s government, on Monday published new details of a recording of Khashoggi’s conversation with members of a 15-member Saudi hit squad sent to kill him. The paper says the recording of Khashoggi’s grisly killing and reported dismemberment on 2 October 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul was obtained by Turkey’s intelligence agency.
Khashoggi could be heard pleading with the men before he was drugged and had a bag put over his head. Sounds of a struggle and what is thought to be Khashoggi’s body being dismembered could also be heard on the tape.
The 59-year-old, a Washington Post contributor who was living in the United States, had travelled to the consulate in order to sign marriage papers so he could wed his girlfriend Hatice Cengiz.
But instead, he was dragged into a back room and killed while she waited for him outside.
The tape is time-stamped at 1.02pm, just 12 minutes before Khashoggi arrived at the consulate.
It describes, according to Al Jazeera, the conversations of Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a senior Saudi intelligence officer and the bodyguard of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Dr Salah Muhammed al-Tubaigy, the head of Forensic Evidence at the Saudi General Security Department.
“Is it possible to put the body in a bag?” Mutreb can be heard asking.
Al-Tubaigy responds: “No. Too heavy, very tall too. Actually, I’ve always worked on cadavers. I know how to cut very well. I have never worked on a warm body but I’ll also manage that easily.
“I normally put on my earphones and listen to music when I cut cadavers. In the meantime, I sip on my coffee and smoke.
“After I dismember it, you will wrap the parts into plastic bags, put them in suitcases and take them out [of the building].”
At the end of the conversation, Mutreb asks whether the “animal to be sacrificed” has arrived. At 1:14pm, an unidentified member of the hit squad says “[he] is here.”
When Khashoggi entered the consulate, he was greeted by a familiar face before being pulled by the arm into the consul-general’s office on the second floor, according to the Daily Sabah.
“Please sit. We have to take you back [to Riyadh],” Mutreb said.
“There is an order from Interpol. Interpol demanded you be returned. We are here to take you,” Mutreb is quoted as saying.
Khashoggi responded: “There are no lawsuits against me. My fiancee is waiting outside for me.”
In the last 10 minutes before he was killed, Mutreb asked Khashoggi to “leave a message for your son”, saying not to worry if he could not reach the journalist.
When Khashoggi refused, Mutreb said: “Write it, Mister Jamal. Hurry up. Help us so we can help you, because in the end we will take you back to Saudi Arabia and if you don’t help us you know what will happen eventually.”
By that time Khashoggi was fully aware of his situation and asked if they planned to drug him.
The operatives then drugged the Saudi journalist and put a plastic bag over his head in a bid to suffocate him. His last words before losing consciousness were: “I have asthma. Do not do it, you will suffocate me.”
Sound of an autopsy saw dismembering the 59-year-old’s body can be heard at 1.39pm local time. The procedure lasted 30 minutes.
His body is yet to be recovered.
Turkey has called Khashoggi’s killing “premeditated murder” orchestrated by the Saudi government.
Saudi officials have countered that claim, insisting Khashoggi was killed in a “rogue operation”, after initially claiming he had left the building before vanishing.
Saudi authorities have charged 11 unnamed suspects over Khashoggi’s murder, including five who could face the death penalty on charges of “ordering and committing the crime”. Mutreb and al-Tubaigy are believed to be among them.
The CIA has reportedly concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed ordered the killing, which officials in Riyadh deny.
The UN human rights expert who conducted an independent probe into the murder of Khashoggi, Agnes Callamard, said in a report last month that the state of Saudi Arabia was responsible for the murder. The report also found “credible evidence” that linked Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the killing of Khashoggi. The rapporteur noted she had received no cooperation from Riyadh and minimal help from the US.
Khashoggi’s killing provoked widespread revulsion and marred the image of the crown prince.
A report in the Washington Post in April said Saudi Arabia gave Khashoggi’s four children “million-dollar houses” and “monthly five-figure payments” as compensation for the killing of their father.