Saudi women's rights activists 'tortured in jail'

Saudi Arabia has tortured and sexually harassed women’s rights activists detained in prison, a new report alleges.

The activists, who have not been named for fear of reprisal, were arrested in May in a crackdown ahead of the lifting of the decades-long women’s driving ban.

Prisoners in the kingdom’s Dhahban Prison have allegedly been interrogated by masked jailers, with one made to hang for long periods of time from the ceiling, sources told Human Rights Watch.

Several showed physical signs of torture, including difficulty walking, uncontrolled shaking of the hands, and red marks and scratches on their faces and necks. At least one of the women attempted to commit suicide multiple times, according to testimonies.

The charity said it was unclear whether they were seeking to force the women to sign confessions or merely to punish them for their peaceful advocacy.

Saudi authorities responded to the report by saying Riyadh “does not condone, promote, or allow the use of torture”.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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Iran says US bases and aircraft carriers within missile range

LONDON (REUTERS) – An Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander said on Wednesday that US bases in Afghanistan, the UAE and Qatar, and US aircraft carriers in the Gulf were within range of Iranian missiles, as tensions rise between Teheran and Washington.

“They are within our reach and we can hit them if they (Americans) make a move,” Amirali Hajizadeh, head of the Revolutionary Guards’ airspace division, was quoted as saying by Tasnim news agency.

Hajizadeh said the Guards had improved the precision of their missiles, and specifically said they could hit the Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, Al Dhafra base in the United Arab Emirates and Kandahar base in Afghanistan that host US forces.

US President Donald Trump pulled out of an international agreement on Iran’s nuclear programme in May and reimposed sanctions on Teheran. He said the deal was flawed because it did not include curbs on Iran’s development of ballistic missiles or its support for proxies in Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and Iraq.

The Islamic Republic’s government has ruled out negotiations with Washington over its military capabilities, particularly its missile programme run by the Guards.

Iran, which says its missile programme is purely defensive, has threatened to disrupt oil shipments through the Strait of Hormuz in the Gulf if the United States tries to strangle Iranian oil exports.

In October, the Revolutionary Guards fired missiles at Islamic State militants in Syria after the Islamist group took responsibility for an attack at a military parade in Iran that killed 25 people, nearly half of them members of the Guards.

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85,000 Children in Yemen May Have Died of Starvation

The United States announced on Wednesday that peace talks to end the war in Yemen would begin next month in Sweden. The announcement came amid growing global pressure to stop the bombing campaigns by a Saudi-led coalition that have unleashed conditions amounting to possible war crimes, according to a United Nations report in August.

The announcement by Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis at the Pentagon came on the heels of a statement by the aid agency Save the Children on Wednesday that underscored the harrowing nature of the conflict: An estimated 85,000 children might have died of hunger since the bombings began in 2015.

Experts say Yemen has become the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, and 14 million people could soon be on the brink of starvation, according to the United Nations.

‘It’s entirely preventable’

“For every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens are starving to death — and it’s entirely preventable,” Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s country director in Yemen, said in the statement. “Children who die in this way suffer immensely as their vital organ functions slow down and eventually stop.”

The statement said that 85,000 was a conservative estimate of how many children under the age of 5 had starved between April 2015, when Saudi Arabia began its air war, and this October.

In addition to the airstrikes, Saudi Arabia has imposed economic sanctions and blockades on Yemen, contributing to the deepening humanitarian crisis.



The price of food has doubled

David Beasley, the managing director of the World Food Program, visited Yemen last week and painted a dire portrait of the situation.

“What I have seen in Yemen this week is the stuff of nightmares, of horror, of deprivation, of misery. And we — all of humanity — have only ourselves to blame,” Mr. Beasley told the United Nations Security Council on Friday.

Since the spring, the price of basic food staples has doubled, Mr. Beasley added. “For a country that’s dependent on imports for the basic needs of life, this is disaster,” he said.

As the death toll from the military operation worsens, rebuilding the economy has emerged as a priority to prevent widespread famine.

The war blocks a gateway for aid

Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen’s civil war in April 2015 to fight the Shiite rebels backed by its regional rival, Iran. But instead of a quick victory, the Saudi-led campaign evolved into a bloody stalemate. The bombardment, which relies heavily on arms and equipment from the United States, has torn the country asunder.

Because of fighting around the port of Hudaydah, a crucial gateway for aid efforts, humanitarian programs have been scaled back, the United Nations special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, told the Security Council on Friday.

Save the Children said it had been forced to reroute supplies for the north of the country through the southern port of Aden, with deliveries taking three weeks instead of one.

According to Stephen L. Anderson, country director for the World Food Program in Yemen, 8.4 million people are considered to be severely food insecure, one step from famine.

“Now, based on analysis and projections, that number could increase by 50 percent or so,” Mr. Anderson said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “Even if peace were to break out tomorrow, which is very unlikely, we’ve still got a massive humanitarian crisis on our hands,” he added.

Trump’s defense of the Saudis

President Trump has defended Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Yemen, blaming Iran for the conflict. Tehran, he said in a statement on Tuesday, was “responsible for a bloody proxy war against Saudi Arabia in Yemen,” while “Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave.”

In his embrace of Saudi Arabia, Mr. Trump has dismissed his own intelligence experts’ conclusion that the kingdom’s young de facto ruler, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had ordered the killing of the dissident Jamal Khashoggi, fueled his “America First” agenda by touting a huge Saudi arms deal and doubled down on the need for the Saudis’ help in the Middle East to contain Iran.

On Wednesday, Mr. Trump praised the Saudis for a drop in oil prices, writing on Twitter: “Oil prices getting lower. Great! Like a big Tax Cut for America and the World. Enjoy! $54, was just $82. Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let’s go lower!”

By largely absolving Prince Mohammed, of any responsibility in the killing of Mr. Khashoggi — “Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Mr. Trump said — he ignores a documented list of humanitarian disasters and rights abuses by the kingdom, and his pardoning of Saudi Arabia could embolden autocrats across the globe, analysts say.

This month, the United States said that it would end air refueling flights for the Saudi military campaign in Yemen and prepare sanctions against Saudis linked to the killing Mr. Khashoggi. But those steps were seen as limited and in response to overwhelming international condemnation.

The United States Agency for International Development has said that the United States was providing more that $566 million in aid to manage the humanitarian crisis. In a fact sheet published Nov. 9, it pointed to the damage done to civilian infrastructure following the Saudi coalition’s deployment around the port city of Hudaydah.

Mr. Mattis did not specify a date for the peace talks for fear of coming out ahead of a United Nations announcement.

“It looks like that very, very early in December, up in Sweden,” he said in Washington. “We’ll see both the Houthi rebel side, and the U.N.-recognized government, President Hadi’s government, will be up there.”

Mr. Mattis added that the Saudi-led coalition had stopped its offensive around Hudaydah before the talks.

Thomas Gibbons-Neff contributed reporting.

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UAE appeals court sentences Matthew Hedges to life in prison

Matthew Hedges, 31, sentenced to life for spying and supplying sensitive information to external actors, family says.

    A UAE court has sentenced British academic Matthew Hedges to life in prison after he was convicted of spying and supplying sensitive security information to external actors.

    Abu Dhabi’s Federal Court of Appeal handed down the verdict on Wednesday, according to his family. 

    “We can confirm that he was sentenced to life in prison. The hearing lasted less than five minutes, and his lawyer was not present,” a family spokesperson told AFP news agency.

    Hedges, a 31-year-old PhD student at Durham University, was arrested on May 5 at Dubai airport after a two-week research visit.

    He was researching the UAE’s foreign and internal security policies after the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011 when he was detained.

    Hedges was formally charged in October with spying on the Gulf state, where he has been held in solitary confinement for the past six months.

    “I am in complete shock and I don’t know what to do. Matthew is innocent,” said Hedges’ wife, Daniela Tejada, who was present in the courtroom. 

    “The UAE authorities should feel ashamed for such an obvious injustice,” she said in a statement, adding that her husband was shaking when he heard the verdict.

    “I am very scared for Matt. I don’t know where they are taking him or what will happen now. Our nightmare has gotten even worse.”

    British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he was “deeply shocked and disappointed”, adding that Wednesday’s sentencing was not what London expected from an ally. 

    “Today’s verdict is not what we expect from a friend and trusted partner of the United Kingdom and runs contrary to earlier assurances,” Hunt said in a statement. 

    “The handling of this case by the UAE authorities will have repercussions for the relationship between our two countries, which has to be built on trust.

    “I regret the fact that we have reached this position and I urge the UAE to reconsider.” 

    A life sentence for a non-Emirati entails a maximum of 25 years in jail and is followed by deportation, according to The National.

    The court ruled that his devices and research would be confiscated, the newspaper reported.

    Emirati authorities could not immediately be reached for comment.

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    Suicide bomber kills 50 in banqueting hall

    A suicide bomber blew himself up in a banqueting hall where Islamic religious scholars had gathered in the Afghan capital Kabul yesterday, killing more than 50 people, three government officials said.

    Najib Danish, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said more than 80 other people had been injured.

    “A suicide bomber detonated his explosives inside a wedding hall where Islamic religious scholars had gathered to commemorate the anniversary of the Prophet Mohammad’s birth,” Mr Danish said.

    The attacker entered a banquet room in the Uranus wedding hall, a massive complex housing several large banqueting halls near Kabul airport, and detonated his explosives.

    “Hundreds of Islamic scholars and their followers had gathered to recite verses from the holy ‘Quran’ to observe the Eid Milad-un-Nabi festival at the private banquet hall,” said Basir Mujahid, a spokesman for Kabul police.

    Officials at Kabul’s Emergency Hospital said 30 ambulances had rushed to the blast site and over 40 people were critically wounded.

    The Taliban said in a statement that “our men were not involved in the Kabul blast and we condemn the loss of human lives”.

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    Ending Yemen’s never-ending war

    “Some people say we are in a hurry,” says Martin Griffiths, the UN’s special envoy for Yemen. “I plead guilty to the charge.”

    “The people of Yemen have suffered quite enough. It’s time.”

    An air strike two weeks ago that took the lives of 44 schoolboys on a field trip, shocking even in a nation shattered by years of strife, has focused minds again on the urgent need to end a conflict that has led to the world’s greatest humanitarian crisis.

    Mr Griffiths has now sent formal invitations to the warring parties to attend a new round of consultations in Geneva on 6 September. They will be the first talks in two years, after two failed rounds.

    “The good news is, the government of Yemen wants to do this. And the Ansar Allah leadership does too,” he says, using the official name of the rebel Houthi movement that took control of the capital Sanaa in 2014 and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi to flee abroad the following year.

    Yemen’s government has been backed militarily since March 2015 by a coalition of Arab states assembled by neighbouring Saudi Arabia to oust the Houthis, who are aligned to its arch-rival Iran.

    This punishing proxy war in the region’s poorest nation has ground on, dragging Yemen to the brink of collapse.

    The deadly Saudi-led coalition air strike on the bus in the rebel-held northern village of Dahyan on 9 August has threatened to derail a fragile political process fraught with risk.

    Mr Griffiths, who took on his new role in March, is the third UN special envoy since 2011, when an Arab Spring uprising forced long-time leader Ali Abdullah Saleh to hand over power to Mr Hadi.

    “There’s anger and defiance,” explains one official closely involved in the UN’s new effort to find a negotiated solution to Yemen’s appalling plight. “The Houthis have been threatening not to attend because they fear the investigation into this attack will not be credible.”

    Images of bloodied schoolboys, bright blue Unicef schoolbags still on their backs, sparked an international outcry and a call by the UN Security Council for a “credible and transparent” investigation.

    Fifty-five people were killed in all, and many more injured, when a bomb struck the school bus as its driver stopped to buy snacks at a bustling market.

    A coalition military spokesman initially said its forces attacked a “legitimate military target” after debris from a Houthi missile intercepted over southern Saudi Arabia killed one person and injured 11 others.

    Now, the coalition has said it is investigating the reports of “collateral damage” and will compensate victims if necessary.

    This latest tragedy has also reignited public criticism over the role of Western countries, including the UK and US, which are backing the coalition through billions of dollars in arms sales and operational support.

    The bomb deployed in the latest devastating attack which pulverised the school bus was reportedly provided by a US arms manufacturer.

    “The bus attack will certainly add to pressure on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to move toward a negotiated end to the war,” assesses Joost Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group. “But I’m not convinced that this will be decisive.”

    Earlier this year, Mr Griffiths’ sustained shuttle diplomacy and the anguished appeals of aid agencies averted an all-out assault by pro-government forces on the vital Red Sea port of Hudaydah, and the adjacent city, currently in Houthi hands.

    Most of the humanitarian aid on which 80% of Yemenis rely for survival comes through Hudaydah.

    But it also convinced the UAE, which took the lead on the Hudaydah offensive, that only a ratcheting up of military pressure would bring Houthi leaders to the negotiating table, ready to do a deal.

    Under greater threat, Houthi leaders had told Mr Griffiths they were prepared to hand over Hudaydah port to UN administration, a move they had resisted for years. Then the coalition shifted the goalposts. They demanded rebels withdraw from the city too.

    “We think more military pressure still needs to be exerted on the Houthis,” insists an Arab official in the coalition, underlining that victory in Hudaydah would be a game-changer that would bring a swift end to this war.

    But the assault against such a large city, where well-trained Houthi fighters are now entrenched, has also proven to be far more daunting than the first coalition military plans envisaged.

    “The UAE and its allies have come to realise just how much it will cost them in blood and treasure, as well as in how they’ll be viewed,” comments one observer.

    A diplomatic source says that, in June, as the first onslaught on Hudaydah loomed, then UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called UAE diplomats to urge them to give Mr Griffiths more time to come up with a negotiated solution. Mr Johnson is said to have warned of another Stalingrad – an allusion to shocking images of destruction in World War Two.

    Ever since the UN envoy first announced his plan to launch a new political process, all sides have expressed support for his efforts. But they have voiced pessimism too.

    And while the US and UK governments are known to raise concerns about coalition military tactics in private with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, in public they defend their long-standing allies.

    “There’s a strong impression that they support the man, but not the plan,” is how a Western Yemen expert puts their approach to Mr Griffith’s mission.

    “That’s them having their cake and eating it too,” he explained. “They say: ‘We totally want Martin to create peace, but if his plan upsets our partners, we’re not going to push.'”

    Iran’s role is also a factor. But the extent of its military support, and its sway over the Houthis, is disputed.

    “The Iranians play a role in allowing the Houthis to believe they can hold out,” says Mr Hiltermann. “But the Houthis have shown in the past that the Iranians don’t have that much influence over them.”

    The bar has deliberately been set low for this next round of talks in Geneva. But some observers see rare glimmers of hope.

    “There’s fatigue,” points out one analyst following the process closely. “Yemenis are exhausted by this conflict.”

    And the arrival of the experienced, plain-speaking UN mediator has translated into enhanced access in all capitals, including meetings with senior Houthi leaders.

    “The Houthis are now willing, and not afraid, to make concessions they weren’t a year ago including on Hudaydah,” a Yemen expert added.

    Sources say the rebel leaders have made new offers, including a proposal to freeze the fighting, as well as alternative arrangements for Hudaydah city.

    Geneva will only be talks about talks, an informal discussion only among Yemenis.

    The ambition is to move gradually towards more substantive negotiations in a broad process that draws on dialogue in backchannels, shuttling between capitals, and engagement with Yemenis across civil society.

    Mr Griffiths describes the goal as a “transitional political operation under a national unity government… and security arrangements for the withdrawal of all armed groups.”

    “Baby steps, just baby steps,” is the phrase used by Bashraheel Hisham Bashraheel, deputy editor-in-chief of Al-Ayam newspaper in the southern Yemeni city of Aden, which is under government control.

    Like baby steps, there’s a great risk this new process will falter – just like the last two rounds.

    “Geneva will be a beginning,” says Mr Griffiths. “Even a beginning is good.”

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    After Airbnb, Booking.com asked to remove West Bank listings

    ADEI AD, PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES (AFP) – Rights activists on Tuesday (Nov 20) urged Booking.com to follow the example of Airbnb and withdraw listings for rentals in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, even as Israel called the move “disgusting” and threatened legal action.

    Airbnb said on Monday that it would remove such listings, just ahead of the release of a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report criticising the inclusion of settlements.

    Israel strongly denounced Airbnb’s decision and threatened legal action against the company, while Palestinian officials welcomed it.

    The United States-based rights group HRW issued its report on Tuesday and called on Booking.com to follow Airbnb’s “positive step”.

    “By ending its brokering of rentals in illegal settlements on land off-limits to Palestinians, Airbnb has taken a stand against discrimination and land confiscation and theft,” Mr Omar Shakir, HRW’s director for Israel and the Palestinian territories, told AFP.

    “It is an important and welcome step and we encourage other companies like Booking.com to follow their lead and stop listing in settlements.”

    HRW issued the report on the online reservations firms, entitled “Bed and Breakfast on Stolen Land”, along with Israeli non-governmental organisation Kerem Navot.

    It says Airbnb, based in the US, listed at least 139 properties in West Bank settlements between March and July.

    “Israelis and foreigners may rent properties in settlements, but Palestinian ID holders are effectively barred,” HRW said.

    That is “the only example in the world the organisations found in which Airbnb hosts have no choice but to discriminate against guests based on national or ethnic origin”, it said.

    According to HRW, Booking.com, based in the Netherlands, had 26 properties in West Bank settlements as of July, 17 which were on land Israel acknowledges is privately owned by Palestinians.

    Booking.com did not indicate it would be changing its policy, telling AFP it permits “all accommodation providers worldwide to list on our platform as long as they are in compliance with applicable laws”.

    “Everything we do in terms of how we display information is always in accordance with local laws to provide transparency to anybody looking for accommodation on our site,” a statement from Booking.com said.

    ‘Defy peace’

    Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin on Tuesday threatened legal action against Airbnb in the US and Israel over its move, branding it “hypocritical and disgusting”.

    In contrast, senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat has welcomed Airbnb’s decision as “an initial positive step”.

    “Israeli settlements are not just an obstacle to peace, but defy the very definition of peace,” he said in a statement.

    Ms Moria Shapira, an Israeli settler who had been offering an apartment for rent through Airbnb, said she was “in shock” over the company’s move.

    Ms Shapira lives in the Adei Ad wildcat settlement outpost deep in the West Bank. She said she did not understand why nearby Palestinian communities could post rentals on Airbnb but she could not.

    “Part of the surprise was that here next to us, in Ramallah and in Rawabi, there are advertised Airbnb apartments and it is fine,” she told AFP at her hilltop home.

    Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law and major roadblocks to peace, as they are built on land Palestinians see as part of their future state.

    Around 400,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements, which range in size from tiny hamlets to large towns. A further 200,000 live in settlements in occupied east Jerusalem.

    Mr Nati Rom, a resident of the Esh Kodesh wildcat settlement and a lawyer with the Lev Ha’Olam organisation which fights boycott campaigns against Israel, protested over what he termed “anti-Semitic pressures”.

    “It’s regretful to see Israeli organisations that harm us, and it’s more regretful to see Airbnb surrendering to these pressures – anti-Semitic pressures that harm the Jewish sector,” he said, referring to the group that worked with HRW.

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    Saudi King Stands by Crown Prince as Outrage Over Khashoggi Killing Spreads

    BEIRUT, Lebanon — King Salman of Saudi Arabia stood by his son and crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, on Monday, avoiding any mention of the international outrage toward the kingdom in his first public remarks since Saudi agents killed the dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month.

    The echoes of that killing continued to spread, with Germany sanctioning 18 Saudis suspected of involvement and freezing arms exports to Saudi Arabia on Monday. And the Turkish defense minister suggested that Mr. Khashoggi’s killers could have left the country with his body.

    Mr. Khashoggi’s killing inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul has become a lightning rod for Western criticism of Saudi Arabia, its human rights record and the leadership of Prince Mohammed, the kingdom’s day-to-day ruler. A growing chorus of current and former Western officials have concluded that an operation as elaborate as the one to kill Mr. Khashoggi could not have been carried out without the prince’s knowledge, and American officials told The New York Times and other publications last week that the C.I.A. had concluded that the prince had ordered the killing.

    Saudi officials have vehemently denied that the crown prince had any involvement in the death of Mr. Khashoggi, a Virginia resident who wrote columns for The Washington Post that were critical of some Saudi policies. They have portrayed the killing as a result of a rogue operation to return Mr. Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia.

    The heightened scrutiny of Prince Mohammed, 33, has caused speculation in some quarters that he could be pushed aside. But in Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy, only his father has the authority to do so, and in Monday’s remarks, he showed no intention to sideline his son.

    In his annual address to the Shura Council, the kingdom’s advisory assembly, the 82-year-old monarch stuck to general statements on official Saudi policy, calling on the world to stop Iran’s nuclear program, press for political solutions to the wars in Syria and Yemen and keep up the fight against terrorism.

    If the king made any reference to the aftermath of Mr. Khashoggi’s killing, it was done obliquely.

    He praised the country’s public prosecutor, whose office is handling the official Saudi investigation into the killing. Last week, the prosecutor’s office said it had filed criminal charges against 11 Saudis for suspected involvement in the killing and that it was seeking the death penalty against five of them, usually carried out in Saudi Arabia by beheading.

    “We affirm that this country will never deviate from the application of Allah’s law without any distinction or delay,” the king said.

    He also made a vague reference to governmental reforms to ensure that instructions are properly followed to “avoid any violations or mistakes.”

    Saudi Arabia has said that the operation that led to Mr. Khashoggi’s death was carried out outside the chain of command. Last month, King Salman announced the formation of a committee charged with restructuring the intelligence apparatus to prevent similar problems from occurring in the future.

    Heading that committee is Prince Mohammed.

    Those steps have done little to cast doubt on the narrative laid out by Turkish officials that Mr. Khashoggi was suffocated soon after entering the consulate and then dismembered by a team of 15 Saudi agents who had flown in to do the job. Nor have the kingdom’s frequently shifting explanations stemmed the outrage in Western countries over the death.

    Germany on Monday froze the delivery of previously approved arms exports to Saudi Arabia over the killing of Mr. Khashoggi. It also banned 18 Saudis from entering Europe’s border-free Schengen zone because of their suspected involvement.

    Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, told reporters in Brussels that his country had issued the ban for the 26-nation zone in close coordination with France, which is part of the Schengen area, and Britain, which is not.

    “As before, there are more questions than answers in this case, with the crime itself and who is behind it,” Mr. Mass said.

    Over the weekend, the United States announced sanctions on 17 Saudis suspected of involvement in the killing. The German list included the same names, plus that of Gen. Ahmed Asiri, the former deputy head of Saudi intelligence, who was fired after Mr. Khashoggi was killed.

    Mr. Khashoggi, 59, went to the consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2 to obtain papers that would allow him to marry his fiancée, who is Turkish.

    Over the past few weeks, the Turks have leaked evidence of the plot, including the names and photographs of the Saudi team members and surveillance footage of them arriving at the airport and moving around in Istanbul.

    The Turkish defense minister provided further information over the weekend, pressing the case that the team had set out to kill Mr. Khashoggi, rather than deciding to do so only after an effort to bring him home had failed, as Saudi officials have contended.

    “The most important issue is this crime was premeditated, it did not happen in a second,” the minister, Hulusi Akar, said at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada on Saturday. “It was premeditated. Those people were sent to Istanbul and they did their work.”

    Mr. Akar also provided a new possible answer to one of the killing’s enduring mysteries — the location of Mr. Khashoggi’s remains — suggesting that the Saudi agents could have carried Mr. Khashoggi’s dismembered body out of the country in their luggage under the cover of diplomatic immunity.

    “Possibly, possibly they committed the murder and then after that, within three or four hours, they left Turkey,” said Mr. Akar, a retired general who left his post as chief of staff in the summer to take up the civilian post of defense minister.

    “And because of the diplomatic immunity they left very easily, without having any problem with the luggage. Possibly in the luggage they carried the dismembered body of Khashoggi,” he added.

    The killers had several hours between Mr. Khashoggi’s arrival at the consulate and the time when his fiancée and friends alerted the Turkish authorities that he had not emerged, Mr. Akar noted. By then, Mr. Khashoggi’s body had probably already been removed from the consulate, he said.

    “Possibly, Khashoggi was strangled as soon as he entered and after that dismembered. And they removed the body parts from the consulate,” he said. “Turkish teams did some work in the consulate but they could find nothing.”

    Turkish officials have said that most of the 15 Saudis who arrived in Istanbul in the hours before the murder by commercial and private planes did not have diplomatic status. When they left, their luggage passed through airport security machines. Security officers also hand-searched some of the luggage on the second plane.

    At least nine of the Saudis were government and security officials. One, Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, was a frequent companion of Prince Mohammed.

    A diplomat who left shortly after the killing was an intelligence officer and the deputy head of the Saudi consulate, Ahmad Abdullah al-Muzaini. Mr. Muzaini made a quick trip to Riyadh, the Saudi capital, after Mr. Khashoggi first visited the consulate on Sept. 28. He returned to Istanbul the day before the murder and was photographed passing through Ataturk Airport, which serves the city, with heavy luggage.

    He left the country again at 9:35 p.m. on the evening of the murder, flying direct to Riyadh from Sabiha Gokcen Airport on Istanbul’s Asian side, according to security camera footage released to Turkish news media. The Saudi consul, Mohammad al-Otaibi, who was also at the consulate during the murder, left the country two weeks later.

    Ben Hubbard reported from Beirut, and Carlotta Gall from Istanbul. Karam Shoumali contributed reporting from Berlin.

    Follow Ben Hubbard on Twitter: @NYTBen.

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    Khashoggi killers may have taken his body out of Turkey in luggage

    The killers of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi may have smuggled his dismembered body out of Turkey in luggage, Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar has claimed.

    Mr Khashoggi was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, sparking global outrage against the kingdom and de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

    Riyadh had offered numerous contradictory explanations for his disappearance, before saying Mr Khashoggi was killed after “negotiations” to convince him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.

    Speaking at a conference in Canada, Mr Akar said Mr Khashoggi’s killers may have taken the journalist’s body parts out of Turkey in luggage.

    “One probability is that they left the country three to four hours after committing the murder. They may have taken out Khashoggi’s dismembered corpse inside luggage without facing problems due to their diplomatic immunity,” Mr Akar told CNN Turk.

    Turkey has said a group of 15 individuals, including a two-man “clean-up team”, was involved, and Mr Khashoggi’s body had been dismembered. Turkish officials have also called for an investigation into whether the body was dissolved in acid.

    Saudi public prosecutor Shalaan al-Shalaan said last week Mr Khashoggi’s body was dismembered, removed from the building and handed to an unidentified “local co-operator”.

    More than a month after the murder, Turkey is trying to maintain pressure on Prince Mohammed, releasing a stream of evidence that undermined Riyadh’s early denials.

    US President Donald Trump has described a CIA assessment blaming Prince Mohammed for the killing as “very premature” and said he would receive a complete report on the case tomorrow.

    Mr Trump said he did not want to listen to an audio recording of the murder, despite facing mounting pressure to punish Saudi Arabia for the killing. Mr Trump said he would not listen to it “because it’s a suffering tape, it’s a terrible tape. I don’t want to hear the tape, no reason for me to hear the tape.

    “I know everything that went on in the tape without having to hear it … It was very violent, very vicious and terrible.”

    Turkish officials who heard the recordings, which include Mr Khashoggi’s killing and conversations leading up to the operation, were horrified by the contents.

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    Saudi media ignore US reports on Khashoggi

    Saudi mainstream media have completely ignored reports that the CIA has concluded that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, ordered the killing of prominent journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

    Khashoggi was murdered in Saudi Arabia’s Istanbul consulate early last month.

    The reports about the CIA conclusions emerged in US media in the late hours of 16 November.

    Saudi Arabia insists the crown prince knew nothing about the killing.

    In its morning news bulletins and coverage on 17 November, the state-run, news-oriented Saudi Al-Ikhbariya TV led with news that Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz and his son Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent cables of congratulations to King Mohammed VI of Morocco on the occasion of his country’s independence.

    Although the TV station then reported that the Russian foreign ministry had rejected the politicising of the Khashoggi case, it failed to make any reference to the Khashoggi-related CIA conclusions. The channel’s coverage was mostly focused on developments in Yemen.

    Saudi denial emphasised

    Likewise, the Dubai-based, Saudi-funded Al-Arabiya TV has ignored the CIA story in its morning coverage and news bulletins.

    Although it reported the denial by the Saudi ambassador to the US, Prince Khalid bin Salman, that he encouraged Khashoggi to go to Istanbul, the pan-Arab broadcaster also failed to make any reference to the widely-reported CIA conclusions.

    The channel’s coverage was focused on developments in Yemen, Syria, Israel and Iraq.

    The London-based, Saudi-funded pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat also completely ignored the news. But it featured Prince Khalid’s denial prominently on its website under the headline: “Khalid bin Salman underlines the falsehood of The Washington Post’s allegations.”

    Al-Hayat daily, another Saudi-funded paper based in London, also turned a blind eye to the CIA reports, and instead highlighted Moscow’s comments about Khashoggi.

    “Russia rejects politicisation, and questioning Saudi Arabia’s ability to investigate,” read the top headline on the paper’s website.

    The top two headlines of Okaz, a Saudi-based pro-government daily, read: “Khalid bin Salman denies the allegations of The Washington Post about his contact with Khashoggi” and “The kingdom of justice…the rights of its citizens are never wasted.”

    BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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