Washington, October 24: Changing his stance on Saudi Arabia's involvement in the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, United States President Donald Trump said the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman "may be behind" the scribe's assassination.
While speaking to the Wall Street Journal, Trump said he had dialed Prince Mohammed to inquire about Khashoggi's death. During their conversation, Trump claimed, the Crown Prince remained in denial. Trump Calls Jamal Khashoggi Murder 'Worst Cover-Up in History' as US Revokes Visas of Some Saudi Officials.
"My first question to him was, ‘Did you know anything about it in terms of the initial planning?’ … Prince Mohammed replied that he didn’t,” Trump said. On being asked whether he believes in the Crown Prince's defence, the American President he "really wants to".
Speaking to reporters at the White House on Monday, Trump said the assassination of Khashoggi was one of the worst undercover assassinations carried out ever. "The cover-up was the worst ever even in their (Saudi) history," he said.
Khashoggi, a critic of Prince Mohammed, was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. While the Saudi regime had declined to accept, it later claimed that Khashoggi died in a fight with consulate officials. Based on the preliminary probe, Riyadh has detained 18 officials and suspended 5. Among those who have been relieved of the charges include Saud al-Qahtani, a top aide of the Crown Prince.
Prince Mohammed on Sunday met Salah bin Jamal Khashoggi, the slain journalist's son in Riyadh, and expressed sorrow over his father's demise. The state-owned media agency later issued a statement claiming that stern punishment would be handed over to the officials involved in the crime.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has agreed to form a joint probe team with Saudi officials to investigate the murder, said he would not rest till the perpetrator of the gruesome crime, along "with its planner" is booked to justice.
While Erdogan has so far refrained from directly condemning the Crown Prince, his top adviser Ilnur Cevik on Monday launched the sharpest attack yet, claiming that Prince Mohammed has "blood on his hands". It could not be confirmed whether his remarks reflected the official view of the Turkish President.