JEDDAH: The preliminary results of Saudi Arabia’s investigation into the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi are “credible” and the arrest of 18 people in connection with the death is “a good first step,” US President Donald Trump said on Saturday.
Khashoggi died in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 after a meeting there “devolved into a fistfight,” the Saudi public prosecutor said in a statement early on Saturday.
“The Kingdom expresses its deep regret at the painful developments that have taken place and stresses the commitment of the authorities … to bring the facts to the public, to hold all those involved accountable and bring them to justice,” the statement said.
Eighteen Saudis have been arrested and the investigation continues, the prosecutor said. In addition, several senior officials have been dismissed by royal decree, including deputy intelligence chief Ahmed Al-Asiri, and Saud Al-Qahtani, an adviser at the Royal Court.
King Salman also ordered the creation of a ministerial committee led by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to restructure the General Intelligence Directorate.
Asked on Saturday if he thought Saudi Arabia’s findings were credible, Trump said: “I do. I do.” His next step would be to talk to Prince Mohammed, he said.
“Saudi Arabia has been a great ally, but what happened is unacceptable,” Trump said. The arrests were “a big first step. It’s only a first step, but it’s a big first step.”
Khashoggi, a Saudi citizen who lived in the US, disappeared on Oct. 2 after visiting the consulate to complete paperwork related to his divorce. Saudi Arabia and Turkey set up a joint team to investigate his disappearance. A team of Saudi investigators were sent to Istanbul and have been working on the case with Turkish detectives, who entered the consulate on Thursday.
The preliminary results of the Saudi inquiry were welcomed throughout the Arab and Muslim world. There were statements of support from the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and Palestine, along with the Saudi Council of Senior Scholars, the Muslim World League (MWL) and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
“Saudi Arabia, represented by its leadership, was and still is a state of institutions based on justice and equity,” said the UAE Minister for Foreign Affairs, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan. “The royal decisions and actions taken after this investigation reaffirm these values and established principles to ensure the application of law and justice.”
Egypt offered its condolences to Khashoggi’s family and said it was confident the investigation would reveal the truth. “Egypt sees that the brave decisions and actions taken by the Saudi king over this matter align with his majesty’s approach that respects the principles of law and the application of effective justice,” the Foreign Ministry said.
MWL Secretary-General Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa said Saudi Arabia had handled the case “with transparent and fair approach derived from its Islamic constitution on which its system of government has been based ever since its establishment.”