The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs blamed the death of Jamal Khashoggi on an argument that escalated between the journalist and unidentified men inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Eighteen suspects have been arrested in the case, the Saudi government said, more than two weeks after Khashoggi disappeared. The suspects’ names have not been released.
“The results of the preliminary investigations revealed that the discussions that took place with the citizen, Jamal Khashoggi, during his presence in the Consulate of the Kingdom in Istanbul by the suspects did not go as required and escalated negatively which led to a fight between them and the citizen,” a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
“May God rest his soul,” the ministry said. “The Kingdom expresses its deep regret at the painful outcome and stresses the commitment of the authorities in the Kingdom to bring the facts to the public, as well as holding all those involved and bringing them to justice by referring them to the competent courts in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
The Saudis have faced increasing pressure to provide answers about Khashoggi’s disappearance as Turkey leaked gruesome purported details about his death. On Friday, 17 days after Khashoggi walked into the consulate to obtain documents to marry his fiancee, Saudi state media confirmed his death.
The Saudi narrative does not corroborate with what Turkey officials have alleged happened.
The Turkish investigation concluded 15 suspects, including an autopsy specialist, flew from Riyadh to Istanbul and were waiting for Khashoggi in the consulate when he arrived. The Turks said Khashoggi was tortured, and then, his body was dismembered.
The Saudi announcement did not say what happened to Khashoggi’s body.
The case has tarnished the reputation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who sold himself as a young reformer. Questions have been raised about whether the crown prince approved of the killing.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the Saudi explanation for Khashoggi’s death is unbelievable.
“First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince. It’s hard to find this latest ‘explanation’ as credible,” he said.
First we were told Mr. Khashoggi supposedly left the consulate and there was blanket denial of any Saudi involvement. Now, a fight breaks out and he’s killed in the consulate, all without knowledge of Crown Prince.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 19, 2018
It’s hard to find this latest “explanation” as credible.— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 19, 2018
The White House said it was “saddened” to hear confirmation of the journalist’s death.
“We will continue to closely follow the international investigations into this tragic incident and advocate for justice that is timely, transparent, and in accordance with all due process,” White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.