Khashoggi murder: Saudi crown prince crazy, says US senator

Media captionLindsey Graham: ‘There’s not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw’

US senators say they are confident the Saudi crown prince was linked to the murder of a Saudi journalist, following a private CIA briefing.

Senator Lindsey Graham said he had “high confidence” Mohammed bin Salman knew in advance about the killing of Jamal Khashoggi.

The South Carolina Republican described the Saudi royal as “a wrecking ball” and “crazy” and “dangerous”.

The Saudis have charged 11 people but deny the crown prince was involved.

CIA Director Gina Haspel spoke to Senate leaders earlier on Tuesday.

She was absent from last week’s briefing by the secretaries of state and defence, angering some in Congress.

Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October. The CIA has concluded Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman “probably ordered” the killing.

The CIA has evidence he exchanged messages with Saud al-Qahtani, who allegedly oversaw the murder.

But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary James Mattis told senators last week there was no direct evidence of the crown prince’s involvement.

President Donald Trump has said the CIA findings on the crown prince were not conclusive. On 20 November he said: “It could very well be that the crown prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t.”

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What did senators say?

Influential members of the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations did not mince words after the CIA briefing on Tuesday.

“You have to be wilfully blind not to come to the conclusion that this was orchestrated and organised by people under the command of MBS,” Mr Graham said, using the crown prince’s initials.

The senator said he could not support arms sales to Saudi Arabia as long as the Saudi crown prince remained in power, or the kingdom’s war in Yemen.

“There is not a smoking gun – there is a smoking saw,” the senator added, referring to Khashoggi’s alleged dismemberment.

Senator Bob Menendez, a Democrat, told reporters he was “now more convinced than I was before” that the crown prince was complicit.

He said the US must “send a clear and unequivocal message that such actions are not acceptable in the world’s stage”.

Mr Menendez added that he was cosponsoring bipartisan legislation that would impose sanctions against anyone found responsible.

Media captionThe BBC’s Frank Gardner looks at what could happen to the man known as MBS

Another senator, Bob Corker, told reporters: “I have zero question on my mind that the crown prince MBS ordered the killing.”

The Tennessee Republican added: “If he [Mohammed bin Salman] was in front of a jury he would be convicted in 30 minutes. Guilty.”

Mr Corker suggested that President Donald Trump was condoning the murder of a journalist by refusing to condemn the Saudi crown prince.

Fellow Republican senator Richard Shelby said “somebody” should be punished.

“Now the question is, how do you separate the Saudi crown prince and his group from the nation?”

Who was Jamal Khashoggi?

As a prominent journalist, he covered major stories including the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the rise of Osama Bin Laden for various Saudi news organisations.

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Getty Images

Image caption

Jamal Khashoggi had gone to Istanbul to obtain a marriage document

For decades he was close to the Saudi royal family and also served as an adviser to the government.

But he fell out of favour and went into self-imposed exile in the US last year. From there, he wrote a monthly column in the Washington Post in which he criticised the policies of Mohammed bin Salman.

Khashoggi murder: Saudi crown prince crazy, says US senator

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