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Jamal Khashoggi's killing: A murder that shook 2018

File photo of Jamal Khashoggi. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Web Team Istanbul, Turkey Dec 24, 2018, 11.55 AM (IST)

Jamal Khashoggi paid the price for criticising the Saudi royal family. The Saudi Arabian dissident was living in a self-imposed exile in the United States after fleeing Saudi Arabia last year. He was murdered inside the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, allegedly at the behest of crown prince Mohammed bin Salman.

A complex man of contradictions, Khashoggi went from being a Saudi royal family insider to an outspoken critic of the ultra-conservative kingdom's government.

In his final column for The Washington Post, Khashoggi presciently pleaded for greater freedom of expression in the Middle East.

"The Arab world is facing its own version of an Iron Curtain, imposed not by external actors but through domestic forces vying for power," he wrote.

The Saudi journalist disappeared after entering his country's consulate in Istanbul on October 2. His disappearance was initially shrouded in mystery, and triggered an international crisis for both Riyadh and Washington as Turkish officials accused Saudi Arabia of a state-sponsored killing.

Riyadh, after insisting that Khashoggi left its consulate alive, said more than two weeks afterwards that he died in a "brawl" that arose from a dispute with people he met there.

Three weeks on, the Saudi public prosecutor said the murder was "premeditated" according to information supplied by Turkey.

Khashoggi came from a prominent Saudi family with Turkish origins.

His grandfather, Mohammed Khashoggi, was the personal doctor of Saudi Arabia's founder, King Abdul Aziz al-Saud. His uncle was the notorious arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi.

A friend of the young Osama bin Laden, a Muslim Brotherhood sympathiser, an aide to the Saudi royal family, a critic of the kingdom's regime and a liberal - such conflicting descriptions were all ascribed to Khashoggi.

After graduating from Indiana State University in 1982, he began working for Saudi newspapers, including the Saudi Gazette and Al-Sharq al-Awsat.

Sent to cover the conflict in Afghanistan, Khashoggi sympathised with the mujahedeen in the 1980s war against the Soviet occupation, which was funded by the Saudis and the CIA.

He was known to have been drawn to the Brotherhood's policies seeking to erase the remnants of Western colonialism from the Arab world.

It was this shared vision that brought him closer to Bin Laden, who went on to found Al-Qaeda, which carried out the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

Born in the Saudi holy city of Medina on October 13, 1958, Khashoggi spent his youth studying Islamic ideology and embraced liberal ideas.

But Saudi authorities came to see Khashoggi as too progressive and he was forced to resign as editor-in-chief of the Saudi daily Al-Watan in 2003 after serving just 54 days.

Over the years, he maintained ambiguous ties with Saudi authorities, having held advisory positions in Riyadh and Washington, including to Prince Turki al-Faisal, who ran Saudi Arabia's intelligence agency for more than 20 years.

In 2007, Khashoggi returned to Al-Watan newspaper, lasting almost three years before being fired for "his editorial style," according to his website.

He became close to Saudi billionaire Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, and together they launched in Manama a 24-hour news station, Al-Arab.

But staunch Saudi ally Bahrain shut the station down in 2015, less than 24 hours after it broadcast an interview with an opposition official.

Khashoggi fled Saudi Arabia in September 2017, just months after Prince Mohammed was named heir to the throne.

He spoke out against a Saudi-led boycott of Qatar and also criticised Prince Mohammed for stifling debate about his reforms.

Khashoggi made his fateful visit to the Istanbul consulate in order to obtain the papers he needed to marry his Turkish fiancee Hatice Cengiz.

(With inputs from AFP)