(WASHINGTON) — Newly released transcripts provide insight into the final moments of Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi before he was killed by Saudi agents inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.
The authenticity of the transcripts, which were published Tuesday in the Turkish media for the first time, were confirmed to ABC News by Turkish authorities.
The transcripts reveal gruesome details from the murder that has cast a shadow over Saudi relations with the United States.
The reported transcribed conversations show the 15-member team of Saudi officials discussing what to do with Khashoggi’s body before he arrived at the consulate, seeking paperwork for his upcoming marriage to his fiancée Hatice Cengiz. It’s unclear how Turkey was able to record the events in the Saudi consulate as they unfolded.
Saudi Arabia has said that the team was rogue, misinterpreting an old edict to convince Saudi dissidents to come home and killing Khashoggi by accident. Those 15 individuals have been on trial in the kingdom, but the proceedings have been closed to the public.
“Is it possible to put the body in a bag?” asked Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a senior member of the team, 12 minutes before Khashoggi arrived on Oct. 2.
Dr. Salah Muhammed Tubaigy, who served as forensic chief at the Saudi General Security Department, responded, “No. Too heavy, very tall too.”
“I know how to cut very well,” Tubaigy added. “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.”
According to Turkish officials, the team did that, removing Khashoggi’s body in pieces in five suitcases. His remains have never been found.
In another portion of the transcript, after Khashoggi arrived, he was told to send his son a text message. Mutreb told him to “write something like ‘I’m in Istanbul. Don’t worry if you cannot reach me.'”
Khashoggi responded, “How can such a thing take place at a consulate? I’m not writing anything.”
“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,” Mutreb fired back.
“There is a towel here. Will you have me drugged?” Khashoggi asked.
Tubaigy then stepped in and said, “We will put you to sleep.”
The team then put a plastic bag over his head and suffocated him, with scuffling and struggling heard and a few commands given, such as, “Keep pushing” and “push it well.”
Khashoggi’s last words were, “I have asthma. Do not do it, you will suffocate me,” according to the transcripts.
Shortly afterward, the sound of a bone saw is heard.
A United Nations special investigator determined in a report in June that Khashoggi’s murder was perpetrated at the highest levels of the Saudi Arabian power structure and required further investigation of senior Saudi officials, including Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
Saudi Arabia blasted the report as based on “many unfounded accusations” and questioned “the impartiality and lack of objectivity of the report” and its author, U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnès Callamard.
“The kingdom will never accept any attempt to harm its sovereignty and that it categorically rejects any attempt to derail this issue away from the kingdom’s justice system or any attempt to influence it in any way,” according to Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir.
President Donald Trump was equally dismissive of the investigation, saying he did not raise the issue with the crown prince in a meeting at the G-20 and telling NBC News that the murder had “been heavily investigated. … By everybody.”
The Trump administration has said it continues to collect evidence on the murder, but has largely accepted the Saudi defense that it was a rogue operation carried out by a 15-member team — all of whom were placed under U.S. sanctions last November.
“We continue to urge the Saudi government to ascertain all the facts and hold those responsible for the murder accountable. We are awaiting conclusion of the criminal trial in Riyadh,” a State Department spokesperson told ABC News on Tuesday. “If additional facts come to light, we will consider further measures.”
Members of Congress — in both parties — have challenged Trump on his efforts to dismiss Saudi Arabia’s role in Khashoggi’s death in an effort to keep business as usual.
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