An unclassified United States intelligence report concluded Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman approved of, and likely ordered, the killing, of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Khashoggi, a columnist for the Washington Post who wrote critically of the crown prince and his policies, was murdered by a team of Saudi agents in the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul in October 2018. His dismembered body has never been recovered.
The Saudi crown prince has denied involvement and Riyadh has blamed the event on rogue operatives. Previous investigations, notably by Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, have concluded the order likely came from highest levels of the Saudi government.
The report concurs with those findings saying that: “Since 2017, the Crown Prince has had absolute control of the Kingdom’s security and intelligence organizations, making it highly unlikely that Saudi officials would have carried out an operation of this nature without the Crown Prince’s authorization.”
Here is a timeline of the events leading up to and after Khashoggi’s killing.
Jamal Khashoggi leaves Saudi Arabia for Washington, DC, where he hopes to continue writing amid a crackdown on dissent in his native Saudi Arabia.
“As we speak today, there [are] Saudi intellectuals and journalists. Now, nobody will dare to speak and criticise the reforms [initiated by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS)],” he told Al Jazeera’s UpFront three months earlier.
“Let’s talk about something other than women driving. The NEOM project, the futuristic city that he (the crown prince) plans to invest half a trillion dollars in. What if it goes wrong? It could bankrupt the country.”
The journalist meets Hatice Cengiz, a 36-year-old Turkish PhD student to whom he is soon engaged.
September 28, 2018
Khashoggi pays a first visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain a document attesting he had divorced his ex-wife, a requirement under Turkish law, so that he would be able to marry Cengiz.
October 2, 2018
Accompanied by Cengiz – who waited outside the consulate – Khashoggi is recorded by surveillance cameras entering the building at 13:14pm (10:14 GMT).
Cengiz is instructed to contact Yasin Aktay, a close aide to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in case anything goes wrong.
Three hours pass before Cengiz asks consulate staff about Khashoggi, at which point she is told he had already left the building through the back door.
October 3, 2018
Saudi authorities issue a statement confirming Khashoggi’s disappearance but insist he had left the building.
“Mr Khashoggi visited the consulate to request paperwork related to his marital status and exited shortly thereafter,” the statement read.
A spokesperson for the Turkish presidency, however, says that Khashoggi did not leave the consulate.
October 4, 2018
Turkey’s foreign ministry summoned Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Ankara over the disappearance of Khashoggi.
The ambassador, however, denied knowing anything about Khashoggi’s disappearance, adding that he would inform authorities once he obtained further information.
October 5, 2018
MBS says that Khashoggi is not inside the consulate, adding that he is not against a Turkish investigation taking place and searching the mission.
“My understanding is he entered and he got out after a few minutes or one hour. I’m not sure. We are investigating this through the foreign ministry to see exactly what happened at that time,” the crown prince said in an interview with Bloomberg.
October 7, 2018
President Erdogan says he remains hopeful about the fate of Khashoggi amid reports that the critic may have been killed.
Erdogan says video footage of the entrances to the consulate would be reviewed as well as the monitoring of all inbound and outbound flights.
Yasin Aktay, Erdogan’s adviser, tells the Reuters news agency that he believes Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate.
Aktay added that a 15-man hit squad was “most certainly involved” in the matter.
October 8, 2018
Erdogan says the burden of proof falls on the Saudis, while US President Donald Trump says he is concerned about reports of Khashoggi’s disappearance.
October 9, 2018
The Washington Post – for whom Khashoggi wrote columns – reports that US intelligence had intercepted communications of Saudi officials planning to abduct the prominent journalist.
Saudi Arabia agrees to let Turkish authorities search the consulate.
October 10, 2018
Turkish media publish images of an alleged 15-member Saudi “assassination squad” and video of suspicious movements at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul following Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Another Turkish media channel airs surveillance video of Khashoggi walking into the Saudi consulate.
October 11, 2018
Ankara and Riyadh say they will form a joint group to look into Khashoggi’s disappearance.
October 12, 2018
Officials tell Turkish and US media that recordings exist of Khashoggi’s final moments inside the Saudi consulate.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Interior Abdulaziz bin Saud bin Naif bin Abdulaziz denies allegations regarding the disappearance and alleged murder of Khashoggi, calling them “lies” to target the kingdom.
October 15, 2018
Turkish authorities enter the Saudi consulate and later say they have found evidence that supports suspicions Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
President Trump, a close ally of MBS, says Khashoggi’s death might be the work of “rogue killers”.
October 17, 2018
Turkish investigators enter the home of the Saudi consul in their search for Khashoggi.
October 18, 2018
Turkish media report that Khashoggi was killed “within minutes” of entering the embassy.
Trump says it “certainly looks” as though Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi is dead.
October 20, 2018
Saudi Arabia confirms Khashoggi was killed inside the Saudi consulate on October 2. Following the confirmation, 18 nationals are arrested for their involvement and five officials are sacked.
A Saudi Arabian official tells Reuters that the team of 15 Saudis who were sent to confront Khashoggi on October 2 killed him in a chokehold after “overstepping” their orders.
October 22, 2018
Reuters reports that Saud al-Qahtani, a former royal court media adviser and top aide to MBS, orchestrated Khashoggi’s killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
CNN airs footage of an apparent Jamal Khashoggi body double who was brought to Istanbul by the Saudi team.
October 23, 2018
President Erdogan accuses Saudi Arabia of planning the killing days before his murder on October 2, calling for answers regarding who ordered the killing.
November 10, 2018
Turkey says it has shared audio recordings of the murder with several governments, including the US, Germany, France, and the UK, as well as Saudi Arabia.
Turkish investigators end their search for Khashoggi’s body.
November 15, 2018
Saudi Arabia indicts 11 people it deems responsible for the murder of Khashoggi. The Saudi prosecutor also says it will seek the death penalty for five of them who gave the orders and oversaw the execution of the murder.
November 17, 2018
The CIA intelligence service reportedly concludes that MBS ordered the assassination of Khashoggi in Istanbul.
November 18, 2018
President Trump says he will not listen to the audio tapes of the Khashoggi murder.
In an interview with Fox News, Trump says, “We have the tape, I don’t want to hear the tape, no reason for me to hear the tape.”
November 19, 2018
Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir says that the claims that MBS ordered Khashoggi’s killing are false.
November 20, 2018
White House stresses the importance of the Saudi-US relationship in an official statement.
“That being said, we may never know all of the facts surrounding the murder of Mr Jamal Khashoggi. In any case, our relationship is with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the statement says.
December 16, 2018
UN chief Antonio Guterres calls for a “credible” investigation into Khashoggi’s murder.
“It is absolutely essential to have a credible investigation and to have the punishment of those that were guilty,” Guterres says.
January 3, 2019
The murder trial of 11 suspects begins in Saudi Arabia, with the accused attending the hearing along with their lawyers. The attorney general demands the death penalty for five of the men.
January 5, 2019
UN human rights office says Saudi trial is “not sufficient”, with spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani reiterating the office’s call for an independent investigation “with international involvement”.
January 28, 2019
A UN team led by Agnes Callamard, special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, begins an investigation into the murder.
The team visits the Saudi consulate in Istanbul during a week-long stay in the city.
The investigators will try to find out “the nature and extent of the responsibilities of states and individuals” in relation to Khashoggi’s killing, Callamard says.
June 19, 2019
Callamard issues report on the murder, saying the crown prince and other top Saudi officials should be investigated for the killing.
Callamard says Khashoggi’s death “constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible”.
Saudi authorities dismiss the findings in the report and claim conclusions are “unfounded”.
July 10, 2019
Special rapporteur Agnes Callamard and Hatice Cengiz warn that democratic values worldwide would be at risk should Saudi Arabia escape accountability for Khashoggi’s murder.
September 10, 2019
Turkish media release transcripts of audio recorded during murder, detailing the conversations between the journalist and members of the 15-man hit squad moments before his assassination.
September 30, 2019
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman denies ordering killing of Khashoggi in interview with US media, but said he ultimately bears “full responsibility” for what happened because he is the country’s leader.
December 17, 2019
The US Congress passes a defence bill that includes a provision that the director of national intelligence provide an unclassified report outlining evidence on “advance knowledge and role of any current or former official of the Government of Saudi Arabia” in the Khashoggi killing, within 30 days of enactment.
The Trump administration declined to release the report, telling legislators that revealing the information would compromise the national intelligence office’s sources and methods.
December 23, 2019
Eight of the 11 suspects on trial are found guilty, with five sentenced to death. The ruling says that the killing was not premeditated and cleared MBS adviser al-Qahtani of wrongdoing.
May 22, 2020
Khashoggi’s son, Salah, releases a statement on Twitter saying that he forgives his father’s killers.
Under Islamic law, death sentences in Saudi Arabia can be commuted if the victim’s family pardons the perpetrator.
July 3, 2020
A trial of 20 Saudis in absentia opens in Turkey.
Ahmed al-Asiri, the former deputy head of Saudi general intelligence; and Saud al-Qahtani are indicted on incitement to murder with monstrous intent and inflicting grave torment.
September 7, 2020
A Saudi court overturns the death sentences of the five people convicted in Khashoggi’s murder. They are instead sentenced to 20 years in prison.
September 10, 2020
Callamard, in an interview with Al Jazeera, condemns the Saudi trial as “theatre”.
Meanwhile, a new book recounts that Trump told Journalist Bob Woodward that he had “saved” MBS from consequences in the US.
“I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop,” Trump said.
September 15, 2020
Twenty-nine countries rebuke Saudi Arabia at the UN Human Rights Council.
“We stress the need for full accountability and transparent prosecution of those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi,” Germany’s Ambassador Michael Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg says.
September 26, 2020
Turkey indicts six more Saudi suspects in absentia.
October 20, 2020
Khashoggi’s fiance Cengiz and rights groups file a lawsuit a Washington, DC District Court against MBS and more than two dozen other top Saudi officials, seeking damages for his killing in Istanbul in 2018.
The lawsuit alleges MBS and other Saudi officials crafted the plan to kill Khashoggi after the defendants allegedly learned of Khashoggi’s plans to use Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), the rights group he founded, “as a platform to espouse democratic reform and promote human rights”, the suit continues.
January 19, 2021
Nominee to be US Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines says during her Senate confirmation hearing that the incoming administration of Joe Biden will release the unclassified intelligence report on Khashoggi.
February 20, 2021
The White House says Biden plans to “recalibrate” relations with Riyadh, and will only communicate with King Salman, not MBS.
A month into his presidency, Biden has not had a call with the kingdom.
February 24, 2021
Callamard says the US intelligence report will be critical for justice.
February 25, 2021
US State Department spokesman Ned Price says release of report will be “important step” in accountability for the murder of Khashoggi.
“Transparency, as it often is, is an element of accountability, I wouldn’t expect the accountability to stop there.”
February 26, 2021
Unclassified report from the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence places blame for operation that killed Khashoggi on Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.