Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (CNN) Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Wednesday described the killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi as a “heinous” crime in his first comments since some of his closest aides were implicated in the Saudi journalist’s death.
Speaking at an investors’ conference in Riyadh that has been overshadowed by the crisis, bin Salman said those responsible for the killing would be brought to justice.
“This was a very, very painful incident for all Saudis and also for everybody on this planet. It was unnecessary,” he said.
The crisis has presented a threat to bin Salman in a way that a bloody war in Yemen, the alleged abduction of the Lebanese Prime Minister and a crackdown on dissent at home have not. After Saudi Arabia admitted over the weekend that Khashoggi was killed October 2 in its Istanbul consulate, five high-ranking officials were dismissed, including bin Salman’s media chief and the deputy head of the Saudi intelligence service. Eighteen people were arrested.
Riyadh has maintained that neither bin Salman nor his father, King Salman, knew of the operation to target Khashoggi. US officials have said such a mission — including 15 men sent from Riyadh — could not have been carried out without the authorization of bin Salman, the country’s de facto ruler.
“Saudi Arabia will go and implement all necessary rules and investigate deeply in order to achieve results. And to bring to justice those who are responsible for this heinous crime, and they will be put before courts,” bin Salman told his audience in Riyadh on Wednesday.
In its public admission Saturday, Saudi Arabia claimed that Khashoggi died when a discussion turned violent. In private, officials have offered a shifting narrative. In the latest version offered by an official, the original plan was to persuade Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia, and if he refused, to drug him and take him to a safe house in Istanbul. But Khashoggi became agitated, the official asserted, and he died in a chokehold.