The terrible death of Jamal Khashoggi, and what it all means

David Pakman and his producer discuss the murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey.

It was a hinky story from the beginning, when the 59-year-old journalist walked in through the consulate’s doors on October 2 without walking back out again. He had simply come to pick up a document certifying that he was indeed divorced from his previous wife, and thus free to marry his Turkish fiancée.

Bad enough that he vanished seemingly without a trace, but then the news broke that on the same day that he disappeared, two small private jets landed at Atatürk Airport, bearing 15 mysterious Saudi men. They came to the consulate shortly before Khashoggi arrived, and left the country a couple of hours later. It is unlikely that they came merely to sightsee in beautiful, historic Istanbul. What were they there for?

Well, now we are beginning to learn what their real purpose in Istanbul was, and it grows more horrifying with every news report that comes out.

Apparently, Jamal Khashoggi was wearing an Apple watch at the time. Before he went into the consulate, he allegedly set it to record. His fiancée, who had accompanied him to the consulate, stayed behind, allegedly receiving transmission from the watch via his iPhone (Apple Insider disputes this, mainly on technical grounds).

A seven-minute audio recording allegedly leaked out, possibly as a result of this (but more likely as a result of a bug placed by Turkish intelligence), detailing how Khashoggi was tortured and killed. As luck would have it, seven minutes is apparently the time it took the 15-man Saudi assassination squad to kill him. It is also the amount of time, as it happens, that one member of the assassin team takes to conduct mobile autopsies (his forensic medical specialty):

Salah Muhammad al-Tubaigy, who has been identified as the head of forensic evidence in the Saudi general security department, was one of the 15-member squad who arrived in Ankara earlier that day on a private jet.

Tubaigy began to cut Khashoggi’s body up on a table in the study while he was still alive, the Turkish source said.

The killing took seven minutes, the source said.


A Turkish source told the New York Times that Tubaigy was equipped with a bone saw. He is listed as the president of the Saudi Fellowship of Forensic Pathology and a member of the Saudi Association for Forensic Pathology.

In 2014, London-based Saudi newspaper Asharaq al-Awsat interviewed Tubaigy about a mobile clinic that allows coroners to perform autopsies in seven minutes to determine the cause of death of Hajj pilgrims.

The newspaper reported that the mobile clinic was partly designed by Tubaigy and could be used in “security cases that requires pathologist intervention to perform an autopsy or examine a body at the place of a crime”.

(Linkage as in original.)

In this case, the estimable Dr. Tubaigy apparently didn’t just perform an autopsy at the scene of a crime; he performed a crime, period. And get a load of how he took his mind off what he was doing, too:

As he started to dismember the body, Tubaigy put on earphones and listened to music. He advised other members of the squad to do the same.

“When I do this job, I listen to music. You should do [that] too,” Tubaigy was recorded as saying, the source told MEE [Middle East Monitor].


And even more charming: The Saudi consulate received a suspiciously large shipment of cleaning supplies and janitors shortly thereafter — right before a scheduled inspection by Turkish authorities. They didn’t even bother to hide the fact that they needed them.

Of course, that all just underscores how terrible the crime was, and how callous its perpetrators must be. And also how hard karma is gonna bite them in the ass when the full horror of what they’ve done just won’t let them go. Because if you have to put on headphones to drown out the sounds of bone saws and the victim’s screams, you’re going to have a much harder time trying to forget what you’ve seen.

Most of all, though, it demonstrates just what lengths the man Jamal Khashoggi criticized most — Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman — was willing to go to in order to silence his critics…and send a message to the more timid ones by showing them what would happen to the bold.

Khashoggi’s family and friends must all be in terrible shock, particularly his fiancée. Meanwhile, Saudi social activists of all kinds are watching their backs. Some have gone underground, or even fled the country, for fear that they will be “disappeared” next. At least one of them is currently facing a possible death sentence.

But the one good thing in all this is that no one believes the official excuses. Whether it’s “rogue killers” or an “interrogation gone wrong”, or whatever bullshit they’re going to cook up next, the writing is on the wall for the crown prince: People may fear him, but true popularity and respect he does not command. This latest, most naked show of force is only going to worsen his already bad image. For the time being, he’s on top. But his egomaniacal, deceitful insecurity is plain for all the world to see…and the head that wears the crown could not lie more uneasily.

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