World & Nation

‘Cut it into pieces’: Jamal Khashoggi’s dismemberment was methodically planned, U.N. report says

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman
(Bandar Aldandani / AFP/Getty Images)

A new independent United Nations report provides a glimpse of the horrific last moments of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, detailing how the men lying in wait for him at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, coolly discussed how they would dismember his corpse.

“Cut it into pieces,” a man identified as a Saudi pathologist says on audio shared by Turkish authorities, according to the 101-page document released Wednesday. “It will be finished.”

The report by Agnes Callamard, the world body’s special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions, held Saudi Arabia responsible for the Oct. 2 killing. That is a conclusion that has already been broadly reached by the U.S. intelligence community, among others.

But her report cast a chilling new light on the methodical planning by Khashoggi’s assailants that continued up to the moment Khashoggi entered the consulate in hopes of obtaining paperwork he needed to remarry — and amplified calls for greater scrutiny of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

RELATED: Read the full United Nations report on the killing of Jamal Khashoggi »

Many experts had already discounted the possibility that the elaborate operation to entrap and kill Khashoggi could have taken place without the knowledge of the crown prince, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler.

Callamard concurred with that view, calling it “inconceivable” that such an operation could have been carried out “without the crown prince being aware, at a minimum, that some sort of mission of a criminal nature, directed at Mr. Khashoggi, was being launched.”

The crown prince has never acknowledged any culpability, but the report suggests possible avenues for punishing him, including sanctions of his personal assets.

President Trump, who has defended his administration’s close relationship with the Saudis, has already come under congressional pressure to seek greater accountability in the killing — calls that are likely to intensify with the grim narrative laid out in the report.

Khashoggi, a contributing opinion writer for the Washington Post who lived in Virginia, was killed by Saudi agents shortly after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, investigators have said. Despite repeated pleas from his family, his remains have not been handed over.

The broad outlines of what happened that afternoon, including reports that Khashoggi’s body was dismembered, have already been cited by previous investigators, who relied on at least some of the same audio that Callamard used in drawing her conclusions.

But the U.N. document provides the clearest public account yet of the grisly last-minute admonitions and advice exchanged by the Saudi team awaiting him.

In the tapes, Khashoggi is not referred to by name. Instead, one of the voices on the audio, identified as a Saudi intelligence agent called Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, asks if the “sacrificial animal” has entered the building.

Another voice, identified as that of Saudi pathologist Salah Tubaigy, spells out how the dismemberment would occur.

“Joints will be separated,” he says, according to the report. “It is not a problem.”

On the tape, he carefully instructs the others on how the gory task would be carried out, the report says.

“The body is heavy,” Tubaigy explains. “First time I cut on the ground. If we take plastic bags and cut it into pieces, it will be finished.”

The report also detailed apparent attempts to cover up the killing, citing “credible evidence” that the scene had been “thoroughly, even forensically cleaned.” A subsequent Saudi investigation, Callamard wrote, was “not conducted in good faith.”

The kingdom has said 11 suspects, whom it has not publicly identified, are currently on trial in Saudi Arabia, with five potentially facing the death penalty. The report urged that the legal proceedings be suspended for reasons including lack of due process and failure to meet transparency standards.

Once inside the consulate, Khashoggi was told he would be taken back to Saudi Arabia and initially argued with his captors, according to audio cited by the report. He resisted an order to text-message one of his sons, but was eventually subdued amid sounds of struggle.

On the audio, the assailants can be heard preparing to drug him, the report said. “Did he sleep?” a voice asks.

The audio also captured how Khashoggi, even as he recognized the gravity of the threat he faced, expressed incredulity that so brazen an assault would take place inside a diplomatic installation.

“How could this happen in an embassy?” he asked.