WORLD NEWS
02/10/2019 14:02 EST | Updated 02/10/2019 17:34 EST

Top Saudi Diplomat Calls Jamal Khashoggi Murder A 'Mistake'

Contradicting U.S. intelligence reports, a foreign affairs minister claimed the Saudi officials accused of killing the journalist acted “outside their scope of authority.”

A Saudi Arabian foreign affairs official claimed Sunday that journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder was “a mistake” committed by Saudi government officials who had acted “outside their scope of authority.”

Adel al-Jubeir, the country’s minister of state for foreign affairs, a top official in the foreign ministry, continued to claim Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) had no involvement in the October slaying of Khashoggi, despite the CIA’s determination that he was behind it.

“The death of Jamal Khashoggi was a massive tragedy,” al-Jubeir told CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday. “It was a mistake. It was committed by officials of the Saudi government acting outside their scope of authority.”

He continued: “We have said we will investigate. We will hold those responsible accountable and we will punish them. The crown prince had nothing to do with this. There was no order given to murder Jamal Khashoggi. And the whole country is shocked by this.”

President Donald Trump, rejecting his own intelligence officials’ findings, has apparently chosen to believe MBS’ claim that he played no role in the gruesome murder of Khashoggi, a critic of the Saudi royal family who was killed after entering a Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2, 2018.

Both the CIA and Turkish investigators say MBS personally ordered the assassination, yet Trump announced in November that the U.S. would not end its alliance with the Middle Eastern kingdom.

Saudi Arabia purportedly conducted an investigation into Khashoggi’s murder which resulted in the arrests of 18 Saudis, including 15 operatives who had allegedly acted as the hit squad. 

“What I tell people is wait until the legal process plays out and then judge us,” al-Jubeir told CBS. “Don’t judge us before the process is complete.”

But Saudi Arabia has a long history of detaining and murdering dissidents. More than 60 people, many of whom are believed to be human rights activists, were arrested in May 2017 alone by the Saudi government during a wave of detentions, according to a January 2018 report released by two leading international human rights lawyers.

The New York Times on Friday published a report that alleged MBS had told an aide in 2017 that he would “use a bullet” on Khashoggi. Asked about the report Sunday, al-Jubeir declined to comment.

“I’m not going to comment on reports based on anonymous sources,” he said. “I don’t know the background.”

Al-Jubeir claimed Saudi investigators still don’t know the location of Khashoggi’s body. Turkish officials have said Khashoggi’s attackers dissolved his body in acid in an attempt to hide evidence of his murder.

“We are still investigating,” he told CBS. “We have a number of possibilities, and we’re asking what [the alleged murderers] did with the body, and I think this investigation is ongoing.”

Al-Jubeir previously served as Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister from 2015 until December 2018, when he was demoted to the rank of minister of state for foreign affairs as part of MBS’ sweeping overhaul of his cabinet. Ibrahim al-Assaf, formerly a longtime finance minister, took over the position.

Clarification: Language in this story has been amended to clarify that al-Jubeir is not Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister but its minister of state for foreign affairs.