Exclusive: Mohammed bin Salman Speaks About His Role in Khashoggi’s Murder For the First Time

September 25, 2019
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by Patrice Taddonio Digital Writer & Audience Development Strategist

Nearly one year ago, the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul shocked the world.

Ever since, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been silent about his involvement in the operation, which the CIA concluded he ordered but the Saudis deny.

Now, in a newly published conversation with FRONTLINE correspondent Martin Smith, the Saudi leader speaks out for the first time about his role in Khashoggi’s murder — telling Smith that the killing happened on his watch.

“It happened under my watch,” the Saudi leader told Smith. “I get all the responsibility, because it happened under my watch.”

But he insists that it was without his knowledge.

The exchange is recounted in The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, FRONTLINE’s upcoming season premiere, which examines the Saudi leader’s rise, his rule, and his ties to the events surrounding Khashoggi’s murder.

Weeks after Khashoggi’s death in October 2018, Prince Mohammed called the killing “heinous” and promised that it would be investigated. All the while, his government maintained that the leader had no knowledge of the “rogue operation.” Two months later, in December 2018, Smith tracked down the crown prince at an electric car race outside Riyadh. Smith pressed Prince Mohammed on how the murder could have happened without him knowing about it.

“We have 20 million people. We have 3 million government employees,” Prince Mohammed responded.

“And they can take one of your planes?” Smith asked, referring to the 15-person team said to have been behind Khashoggi’s death and dismemberment that flew in and out of Istanbul on jets owned by the Saudi government.

“I have officials, ministers to follow things, and they’re responsible, they have the authority to do that,” Prince Mohammed said.

The Saudi royal’s comments to Smith, who has been covering the Middle East for FRONTLINE for nearly two decades, are just one facet of new reporting featured in The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. The documentary, which airs on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Khashoggi’s death, also includes never-before-seen FRONTLINE interview footage with Khashoggi that sheds new light on his transformation from a supporter of MBS to his critic.

“I don’t want to be a dissident, but in the same time, I don’t want to go back home and be silent again,” the columnist told Smith months before his death.

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia premieres Tuesday, Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. EST/9 p.m. CST. Tune in or stream on PBS (check local listings), at PBS.org/frontline and on the PBS Video App.

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