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Saudi prosecutor seeks death penalty for Khashoggi murder, says journalist was killed by sedative overdose

Posted November 15, 2018 5:56 a.m. EST
Updated November 15, 2018 6:53 a.m. EST

— Saudi prosecutors said Thursday they would seek the death penalty for five people allegedly involved in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

A total of 11 people were charged, the Saudi Public Prosecutor's office said, adding that the five people facing capital punishment were directly involved in "ordering and executing the crime."

It also shared details of the journalist's murder, saying Khashoggi was killed following "a fight and a quarrel" at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. He was tied up and injected with an overdose of a sedative that killed him, then his body was chopped up and given to a local collaborator, the prosecutor said.

The Saudi Public Prosecutor's office added that former Saudi deputy intelligence chief, Ahmed al-Assiri, ordered a mission to force Khashoggi to go back to Saudi Arabia and formed a team of 15 people.

They were divided into three groups, the the prosecutor said: a negotiation team, an intelligence team and a logistical team.

It was the head of the negotiating team who ordered the killing of Khashoggi, the prosecutor said.

The prosecutor also revealed that the Royal Court advisor, Saud Qahtani, is banned from traveling pending the investigation into the murder.

Qahtani led the communications team of Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman and was removed from his role last month following Khashoggi's death.

Audio recording: 'Tell your boss' the Saudi Crown Prince

These details come after The New York Times reported that people familiar with the audio recording say it contains an instruction to "tell your boss." American intelligence officials believe is a reference to Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the audio recording was a "true disaster" that "shocked" the Saudi intelligence officer who heard it, pro-government Turkish newspaper the Daily Sabah reported on Tuesday.

Riyadh has maintained that neither bin Salman nor his father, King Salman, knew of the operation to target Khashoggi, an American resident.

CNN has not heard the recording and is unable to verify the voices on the tape or what they're purported to say.

Turkey has claimed for weeks to have audio evidence that exposes how the Saudi journalist was killed on October 2 while visiting the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain papers for his upcoming marriage.

The Turkish chief prosecutor has previously said that Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered the consulate as part of a premeditated plan, and his body dismembered.

The Saudis have presented shifting stories about the journalist's death, initially denying any knowledge before arguing that a group of rogue operators were responsible for his death.

US officials have speculated that such a mission -- including the 15 men sent from Riyadh -- could not have been carried out without the authorization of bin Salman, heir apparent to the Saudi throne.

After Saudi Arabia admitted that Khashoggi was killed in its Istanbul consulate, five high-ranking officials were dismissed, including bin Salman's media chief and the deputy head of the Saudi intelligence service.