'I can't breathe:' Transcript of audio recording from Jamal Khashoggi's murder reportedly describes him gasping for air in his last moments
Chris McGrath/Getty Images
Transcript of an audio recording from Jamal Khashoggi's brutal murder reportedly describes him gasping for air in his final moments.
A source, who was briefed on the investigation and read a translated transcript of the recording from the October 2 killing, told CNN that the audio suggests a carefully planned execution, and not a botched interrogation as previously touted by the Saudis.
Descriptions of the tape recounting how Khashoggi suffocated in his final moments have previously been reported. But CNN's report on Sunday is the fullest account of the transcript in western media to date.
According to the source, the transcript begins as Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul at around 1:15 p.m. to pick up routine paperwork for his upcoming marriage to fiancée Hatice Cengiz, who was waiting outside for him during the time of the incident.
Khashoggi quickly realizes that something about the situation is off as he recognizes a man waiting inside, identified by CNN's source as Maher Abdulaziz Mutreb, a former colleague and a prominent aide to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
According to the source, Khashoggi asks the man what he's doing there.
"You are coming back," Mutreb tells Khashoggi.
"You can't do that," Khashoggi responds. "People are waiting outside."
Mutreb was also named by Turkish officials as one of the 15 Saudis suspected to have acted in Khashoggi's murder.
At that point, the dialogue ends, the source said, as several people close in on Khashoggi, who is left gasping for air in his final moments.
"I can't breathe," Khashoggi repeats several times. The transcript reportedly describes screaming and gasps, indicating that Khashoggi was not yet dead.
Other men, including a voice identified by Turkish authorities as Dr. Salah Muhammad al-Tubaiqi, the head of forensic medicine at Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry, can be heard along with Khashoggi's muffled pleas, the source said. The transcript then describes "sawing" and "cutting" that can be heard on the audio tape.
Al-Tubaiqi can be heard telling the team in the room to block out the noise.
"Put your earphones in, or listen to music like me," he said, according to the reported transcript.
Notably, the transcript describes at least three phone calls placed by Mutreb to someone who, according to previous assessments of the recording, is widely thought to be a senior Saudi official, possibly Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's closest adviser Saud al-Qahtani, or possibly even the crown prince himself. Mutreb reportedly gives the undisclosed person on the other end of the line step-by-step details of what transpired.
"Tell yours, the thing is done, it's done."
Links to the crown prince
(Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Calls for sanctions have grown louder in recent weeks, as details from the investigation into Khashoggi's murder continue to close in on the Saudi leadership.
Last week, Senators from across party lines announced with a "high level of confidence" that Prince Mohammed was "complicit" in Khashoggi's murder, and introduced a measure calling for the crown prince to be "held accountable" for a number of human rights abuses.
The move, led by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Todd Young (R-IN), and Chris Coons (D-DE), pins the blame directly onto the crown prince and hopes to spur the government and the international community to punish him accordingly.
"There is no doubt that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman knew about the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, condoned it, and at worst was actually involved in directing it," Rubio said in a statement Wednesday.
President Trump and, separately a small group of senators were briefed by the CIA on the investigation into Khashoggi's death. The CIA has previously concluded that Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi's killing based on several pieces of intelligence, including the audio recording and security footage.
But the resolution is set to face hurdles by the Trump administration, as the president has recently doubled down on his defense of the Saudi crown prince and said the US-Saudi relationship is "paramount" in his decision making.
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