Murder Khashoggi: bin Salman absolves himself and promises justice. But his power is faltering
Speaking to the "Davos in the desert" the Crown Prince assures that he will punish those "guilty" of the murder and denies any responsibility. The leaders of the kingdom protect Mbs, but his international prestige seems compromised. Saudi Arabian police scoured the forest on the outskirts of Istanbul the night before the murder.
Riyadh (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (Mbs) spoke officially for the first time, more than three weeks after the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, which sees the highest Saudi spheres suspected of involvement.
Regarded as the instigator of the journalist’s execution on October 2nd at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the number two of the kingdom spoke at the Future Investiment Initiative (FII), the "Davos in the Desert" scheduled from October 23rd to 25th in Riyadh on his own initiative. And from the central stage, boycotted by Western politicians and companies, Mbs denied all responsibility.
Mbs also promised to punish all those "guilty" for the murder. The 33-year-old Crown Prince spoke of a "crime" that has been a source of "pain for all Saudis". He therefore ruled out any possible "fracture" with Turkey, whose President Recep Tayyip Erdogan openly accused the highest authorities of the kingdom for a "premeditated" and "political" murder. The crown prince closed his speech talking about "hateful crime that cannot be justified" and promised that "justice will eventually prevail".
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has erected a compact front to defend Mbs, who yesterday met and shook hands with the son of the murdered journalist; an image that has made the front-page around the world (in the picture) given Salah Khashoggi’s terrified face.
Riyadh defends the Crown Prince and points the finger at unspecified "loose cannons" that would have acted beyond their mandate, which was to question the journalist, whose death has been a source of jubilation or regrets depending on the positions.
Analysts and experts point out that bin Salman still holds real power in the country. However, his position seems to have begun to falter and he appears increasingly solitary and isolated, even among the same high spheres of the country who fear compromising relations with the US, heretofore in favor of Riyadh as its regional an anti-Iranian pillar.
US President Donald Trump after initially defending the entire Saudi leadership has begun to draw precise distinctions between Mbs and King Salman. Yesterday, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, he stated that the crown prince must assume full responsibility for the murder, as a de facto leader of the country.
Trump says he wants to believe his words when he says that lower-ranking officials have gave the go ahead for the operation. Nevertheless, it is Mbs who "holds the reins of power" and if something happens "he is the first to know" while King Salman would have been in the dark about everything, in what the US president calls the "worst cover-up operation" in history.
Meanwhile, Turkish investigators continue in search of Khashoggi's corpse and new elements that could shed light on the affair. To date there are no traces of the dissident journalist's body; some sources, unconfirmed, speak of the discovery of some organic traces - perhaps belonging to the corpse - found in the garden of the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
From the analysis of the surveillance images of the building, other useful ideas emerge: the night before Khashoggi's murder a car with a consular Saudi plaque would have scoured a part of the Belgrad forest, on the outskirts of the city. In recent days, investigators have beaten the area where they may have buried the remains of the journalist to conceal evidence.