Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) is continuing his dictatorial style of governing the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and has launched an “aggressive” social media campaign against slain journalist Jamal Khashoggi and Omar Abdulaziz, a dissident residing in Canada.
“Far from altering his impulsive behavior or signaling that he has learned lessons from the Khashoggi affair, as the Trump administration had hoped, appears instead to be continuing with his autocratic governing style and a ruthless campaign against dissenters,” reported the Washington Post (WP)’s David Ignatius in an op-ed titled “The Saudi engine of repression continues to run at full speed.”
Jamal Khashoggi, a U.S.-based Washington Post journalist from Saudi Arabia who had become a critic of the kingdom's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was last seen entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.
After producing various contradictory explanations, Riyadh acknowledged that Khashoggi was killed inside the consulate building, blaming the act on a botched rendition operation.
Bin Salman continues his contacts with sacked adviser Qahtani
The Post also reported that the crown prince is still in close contact with former royal adviser Saud al-Qahtani, who is suspected of being involved in the murder of Khashoggi.
“MBS has been contacting Qahtani and continuing to seek his advice.”
Qahtani had been sacked due to the rhetoric toward the kingdom’s critics that led to Khashoggi’s death.
In October two separate intelligence sources said that Qahtani gave orders over Skype to Khashoggi's killers at the consulate. More recently, a government source familiar with the matter said Qahtani featured prominently throughout recordings of the journalist’s murder.
Saudi sources said that Qahtani met with senior deputies from the royal court’s Center for Studies and Media Affairs at his home in Riyadh and reported that the former adviser denied the accusations made against him, saying, “I’m being blamed and used as a scapegoat.”
The Istanbul prosecutor's office has concluded there is "strong suspicion" that Saud al-Qahtani was among the planners of Khashoggi's Oct. 2 killing at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“The ouster of the previous crown prince, the detentions of royals and businessmen in the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton, the kidnapping of the Lebanese prime minister, and the kingdom’s diplomatic spats with Qatar and Canada,” were all headed by Qahtani, a New York times article titled “Behind a Saudi Prince’s Rise, Two Loyal Enforcers,” states.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the crown prince ordered an operation to kill Khashoggi, whose body was dismembered and removed from the building to a location still publicly unknown. Top Turkish officials have also tied his death to the highest levels of Saudi leadership.
Saudi officials have denied accusations that the prince ordered the murder.
A Saudi court last week held its first hearing on Khashoggi's case in which Saudi Arabian prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for five of the 11 suspects in the case. The United Nations human rights office called the trial "not sufficient."