Jamal Khashoggi’s killers described him as ‘an animal to be sacrificed’ in secret recordings taken inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul minutes before he died.
A full transcript of the recordings, published Tuesday, reveals how Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, deputy leader of the hit-squad sent to silence Khashoggi, an Dr. Salah Muhammed Al-Tubaigy, who cut up his body, talked about the killing beforehand.
In the transcript Mutreb talks about stuffing Khashoggi’s body into a bag, but Al-Tubaigy says he is too heavy and tall, so will have to be cut up and put into suitcases.
The transcript then reveals Khashoggi’s final conversation with the two men and an unnamed accomplice, before he is drugged and has a plastic bag put over his head.
‘I have asthma. Do not do it, you will suffocate me,’ are Khashoggi’s final words before the sounds of a struggle and his body being dismembered are heard.
While details from the tape have been revealed piecemeal in the 11 months since the journalist’s death, the publication of the transcript by Turkey’s Daily Sabah reveals the full picture of how the murder transpired.
A full transcript of Jamal Khashoggi’s murder at the hands of a Saudi hit squad in October last year reveals how Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb (pictured centre) discussed dismembering the dissident journalist’s body before he arrived at the consulate in Istanbul
The audio was captured by Turkey’s National Intelligence Organisation on microphones hidden inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Khashoggi, a former Saudi regime insider turned critic, had gone to the consulate that day in order to sign marriage papers so he could wed his partner, Hatice Cengiz.
Instead he was dragged into a back room where he was killed while she waited for him outside.
Saudi Arabia has admitted Khashoggi’s killing was a premeditated act carried out by government agents, but said they were ‘rogue elements’ who acted without official authorisation.
Dr. Salah Muhammed Al-Tubaigy can be heard talking about how he will listen to music, smoke and drink coffee as he cuts Khashoggi’s body into pieces
However, international observers and critics of the regime believe Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de-facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, gave the order himself.
Eleven of the 15-strong hit squad have since been put on trial for murder, including five who are facing the death penalty.
The first part of the recording details a conversation between Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, the deputy commander of the hit squad, and Dr. Salah Muhammed Al-Tubaigy, the head of Forensic Evidence at the Saudi General Security Department who was in charge of dismembering Khashoggi’s body.
The tape is time-stamped 1.02pm, just 12 minutes before Khashoggi arrived at the consulate.
‘Is it possible to put the body in a bag?’ Mutreb can be heard asking.
Al-Tubaigy responds: ‘No. Too heavy, very tall too. Actually, I’ve always worked on cadavers. I know how to cut very well.
‘I have never worked on a warm body though, but I’ll also manage that easily. I normally put on my earphones and listen to music when I cut cadavers. In the meantime, I sip on my coffee and smoke.
‘After I dismember it, you will wrap the parts into plastic bags, put them in suitcases and take them out (of the building).’
Khashoggi’s final moments, in full
Mutreb: Leave a message for your son.
Khashoggi: What should I tell my son?
Mutreb: You will write a message, let’s rehearse; show it to us.
Khashoggi: What should I say, ‘see you soon’?
Unidentified man: Cut it short.
Mutreb: You will write something like ‘I’m in Istanbul. Don’t worry if you cannot reach me.’
Khashoggi: I shouldn’t say kidnapped.
Unidentified man: Take your jacket off.
Khashoggi: How can such a thing take place at a consulate? I’m not writing anything.
Unidentified man: Cut it short.
Khashoggi: I’m not writing anything.
Mutreb: Write it, Mr. Jamal. Hurry up. Help us so we can help you, because in the end we will take you back to Saudi Arabia and if you don’t help us you know what will happen eventually.
Khashoggi: There is a towel here. Will you have me drugged?
Al-Tubaigy: We will put you to sleep.
Khashoggi was then drugged, telling his captors ‘do not keep my mouth closed’ as they placed a plastic bag over his head.
‘I have asthma. Do not do it, you will suffocate me,’ are Khashoggi’s final words.
Sounds of struggling and suffocation are then heard, with brief moments of discussion between the hit-squad, who question whether he is still moving.
At one point someone says to ‘keep pushing’.
At 1.39pm the sound of an autopsy saw is heard as the team begins dismembering Khashoggi’s body. The procedure continues for 30 minutes.
It is thought the pieces of Khashoggi’s body were then packed into suitcases and carried out of the embassy. His remains have never been found.
Khashoggi, a Washington Post contributor and critic of bin Salman, was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2. The writer is pictured entering the consulate that day
At the end of the conversation, Mutreb asks whether the ‘animal to be sacrificed’ has arrived. At 1:14 p.m., an unidentified member of the hit squad says ‘[he] is here.’
When Khashoggi arrived at the consulate he was first asked to go into a private room on the second floor, and when he refused he was dragged in by the arm.
Mutreb can then be heard telling him that Interpol ordered him to be returned to Riyadh before asking whether he has a phone on him. Khashoggi responds that he has two iPhones.
Khashoggi is told to write his son a text message saying not to worry if he cannot be contacted, in an apparent attempt to cover the hit-squad’s tracks.
The journalist can be heard refusing to write the message, before asking whether he will be drugged. ‘We will put you to sleep,’ Al-Tubaigy says.
He is then heard saying his final words before the sounds of a struggled followed by his dismemberment fill the room.
It is thought Khasoggi’s body parts were then packed into suitcases and taken away from the consulate, before being disposed of in an unknown manner.
To this day, no trace of his body has been recovered.
Mutreb and Al-Tubaigy are among the five men facing the death penalty over Khashoggi’s killing at a closed-door trial that is ongoing in Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia has blamed the killing on ‘rogue elements’ of the state, but in a damning report, a UN special rapporteur said there is ‘credible evidence’ linking Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to the ‘extrajudicial killing’
After Khashoggi was dismembered his body is thought to have been packed into suitcases and carried out of the consulate. It has never been found (pictured, police search for his remains)
In a bombshell report in June this year, UN special rapporteur Agnes Callamard argued there is ‘credible evidence’ linking Khashoggi’s death and attempts to cover it up to Prince Bin Salman.
The report concluded that the murder of Khashoggi ‘constituted an extrajudicial killing for which the State of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible.’
She found Saudi Arabia had taken only ‘timid steps’ towards addressing its responsibility through prosecution and reparations.
The report also found that Saudi Arabia’s closed-door trial of 11 unidentified suspects did not meet global standards and should be stopped.
Because Khashoggi’s killing was an international crime it should be investigated and tried internationally, the report said.
Callamard also urged UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to launch a probe that could build files on alleged perpetrators and identify options for justice, including a possible ad hoc tribunal.
Guterres ‘should be able to establish an international follow-up criminal investigation without any trigger by a State,’ Callamard said.
The FBI in the United States, where Khashoggi was a resident, should also open an investigation, the report said.
Callamard called for sanctions on Prince Mohammed’s ‘personal assets abroad,’ until there is proof that ‘he carries no responsibilities for this execution’.
She said her findings were based partially on recordings from inside the consulate before, during and after the killing, which are revealed in the transcript.
Khashoggi had gone to the consulate that day to obtain papers to marry his partner Hatice Cengiz, who was standing outside the building while he was murdered
The 15-man hit squad suspected of killing Jamal Khashoggi
Turkey announced last year that they were hunting 15 suspects in connection with Khashoggi’s disappearance.
Today, the UN special rapporteur’s report named the same 15 people as the members of the 15-man Saudi team.
Turkish media previously released CCTV images of a group of men who flew into Istanbul on the day Khashoggi went missing after walking into the Saudi consulate.
They were pictured arriving at Ataturk airport’s border control having flown into Turkey in two private jets from the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Saif Saad Q Alqahtani (left) and Mustafa Muhammed M. Almadani (right) were named by the UN report as members of the 15-man Saudi team
Waleed Abdullah M. Alsehri (left) and Abdulaziz Muhammed M. Alhawsawi (right) are also wanted for questioning over the disappearance
The group of men identified included Salah Muhammad A Tubaigy, 47, the head of the Saudi Forensic Medicine Institute.
An expert on forensic evidence, he is known to have trained a large number of police officers in crime scene investigation.
Another man, Muhammed Saad H. al-Zahrani, was revealed to have served as one of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s royal guards – a unit nicknamed the ‘rough swords’.
Mansur Othman M. Abahüseyin and Badr Lafi M. Alotaibi passed through border control