Five Saudi officials face the death penalty over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was drugged and dismembered inside the kingdom's Istanbul consulate, Riyadh's public prosecutor said on Thursday.
The Trump administration has sanctioned 17 Saudi officials for their alleged involvement in the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, the first economic penalties from the USA over the brutal murder that has spawned a diplomatic crisis.
Khashoggi, a royal insider turned critic of Saudi policy, was killed in the country's Istanbul consulate on Oct 2, after a struggle, by lethal injection, deputy public prosecutor and spokesman Shalaan al-Shalaan told reporters on Thursday.
Among the differences between the United States and Saudi statements on Thursday (Friday NZ time), Treasury's account appeared to indicate a planned killing, while the Saudi prosecutor said the decision to kill Khashoggi was made on site by a minor official, presumably one of the agents who had been sent to bring him back to Saudi Arabia.
The sanctions limit access to the USA financial system and freeze the individuals' assets.
The "boss" is suspected to be Crown Prince bin Salman, although Saudi authorities deny his imvolvement.
Notably, the list of designees does not include Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, commonly known by his initials MBS, who the Donald Trump administration has cultivated as a key ally in its Middle East endeavors.
Turkish officials say they believe a 15-member kill team arrived shortly before the incident via private planes from Riyadh.
Saudi officials say they are pursuing the death penalty for five of the people involved in Khashoggi's death - which they now claim happened because he received a sedative overdose after getting into a fight with embassy officials.More news: Czechs take 2-0 lead against United States in Fed Cup final
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The U.S. Treasury Department, meanwhile, announced it was imposing sanctions on 17 Saudi officials who it said were responsible for or complicit in the killing.
The secretary said the United States government would work "diligently" to obtain all the facts on the death of Khashoggi and hold "accountable" any individual found responsible.
The leader of the Saudi team also contacted a collaborator in Turkey to secure a safe house in case Khashoggi was forcibly removed, the statement said.
A US government commission found no evidence that Saudi Arabia directly funded al Qaeda, which carried out the attacks on NY and Washington.
Shalaan said Khashoggi was murdered after "negotiations" for his return to the kingdom failed, and that the killing was ordered by the lead negotiator after he decided it was unfeasible to remove him from the consulate.
The French Foreign Ministry said on Thursday that the referral of the accused in the killing of Saudi citizen Jamal Khashoggi to the judiciary is a step in the right direction.
Riyadh has maintained that neither bin Salman nor his father, King Salman, knew of the operation to target Khashoggi, an American resident.
An adviser to Erdogan accused Riyadh of trying to cover up the murder.
Asked about possible global sanctions in response to the case, Jubeir said there was a difference between sanctioning individuals and holding the Saudi government responsible.