Khashoggi killers living in 'seven-star' villas in Riyadh: Report
At least three members of a Saudi hit squad convicted by the kingdom of murdering journalist Jamal Khashoggi are residing and working "in seven-star accommodation" at a government-run security compound in Riyadh, according to a report by The Guardian.
Rather than being detained in Saudi Arabia's notorious prisons, the convicted killers are believed to be staying in villas and buildings run by the kingdom's state security agency, where they are visited by family members, with caterers, gardeners and technicians frequently attending the compound.
A source connected to senior members of Saudi intelligence told the British newspaper that Salah al-Tubaigy, the forensic doctor from the Saudi interior ministry who Middle East Eye first reported had cut up Khashoggi's body inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, was one of the individuals seen inside the compound.
The source, who spoke to two witnesses who claim to have seen the men, also said that Mustafa al-Madani, the body double dispatched by the hit squad who was seen leaving the consulate wearing Khashoggi's clothing, and Mansour Abahussain, a major-general who was present in the consulate on the day of the killing, were also seen at the compound.
Abahussain and Madani are known to be intelligence officers employed by state security, according to The Guardian, and the source said that the head of Saudi state security, Abdul Aziz bin Mohammed al-Howairini, has been seen with some of the accused and has also been spotted using the compound's gym.
The witnesses, who chose to remain anonymous, saw the three men in sightings that took place in late 2019 and mid-2020.
In December 2019, a Saudi court sentenced five people to death and sent three others to jail over the killing. The prosecutor did not name the individuals sentenced but the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions had identified the defendants, which included Tubaigy, Madani, and Abahussain.
Some of the defendants in the trial who were facing the death penalty had their sentences commuted to time in prison. The trial was largely seen as a sham and condemned as a "parody of justice" by the UN special rapporteur, Agnes Callamard.
Lack of accountability
The sightings cast further doubt on Riyadh's claims that it is holding the killers of Khashoggi, a Middle East Eye and Washington Post columnist, to account.
Western leaders have also been criticised by rights groups and press freedom advocates for not holding Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) - who the US said is responsible for Khashoggi's murder - accountable.
As a presidential candidate, US President Joe Biden had condemned Saudi Arabia, said it was a "pariah" and called for a rethinking of Washington's ties with the kingdom. However, his national security adviser met with the crown prince in September, just days before the anniversary of the murder.
French President Emmanuel Macron visited Saudi Arabia and met with MBS earlier this month in the first visit by a western leader to the kingdom since Khashoggi's death.
The sightings of Tubaigy, Madani, and Abahussain also come as mystery continues to surround the arrest, and subsequent release, by French police of a man initially identified as being linked with Khashoggi's murder.
The detained man was arrested at the Charles de Gaulle airport on 7 December, carrying a passport whose details matched one belonging to Khaled Aedh al-Otaibi.
Police later released the individual and said it was a case of mistaken identity. However, Turkish officials say it was the right man and that the individual carried a passport belonging to the team that killed Khashoggi, with the same name and passport number.
This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.