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Guardian: Assassins of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi living in luxury villas in Riyadh

Friends of murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi hold posters bearing his picture as they attend an event marking the second anniversary of his assassination in front of Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, on October 02, 2020. (File photo by AFP)

At least three members of a Saudi hit squad convicted of involvement in the gruesome killing of prominent dissident and journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul back in October 2018 are reportedly living and working “in seven-star accommodation” inside a government-run security compound in the Saudi capital Riyadh

According to a report published by British daily newspaper The Guardian, a source connected to senior members of Saudi intelligence said the assassins are believed to be staying in villas and buildings run by Saudi Arabia’s Presidency of State Security, and are being kept far from the walls and bars of its infamous prisons.

The source has spoken to two witnesses who claim to have seen the men.

They said family members frequently visit the men, who are able to use a gym and workspaces on the site.

All the three men were among the defendants sentenced in December 2019 before the so-called Riyadh Criminal Court, in a trial broadly condemned as a sham, for “committing and directly participating in the murder” of The Washington Post columnist and Saudi critic.

The source confirmed that Salah al-Tubaigy, the forensic scientist who dismembered Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, was one of those seen inside the facility.

Mustafa al-Madani, the body double dispatched by the hit squad team to create the ruse that Khashoggi left the consulate alive, has also been seen, as has Mansour Abahussein, who is accused of leading the operation.

Both witnesses have visited the compound on several occasions in the past two years. They say the men were relaxed and appeared to be performing normal duties.

Visitors, including caterers, gardeners, technicians and family members, frequently attend the compound, according to the intelligence source.

The sightings cast further doubt on Riyadh’s claims to be holding the killers to account and come as Saud al-Qahtani, a former top aide to Saudi Arabia’s crown prince and de facto ruler Mohammed bin Salman (MbS), is quietly edging back to power, with social media influencers loyal to the Riyadh regime seeking to reintroduce him as a figure who has served the kingdom.

Qahtani has been acquitted of any involvement in Khashoggi’s murder, despite a western intelligence assessment that he had masterminded the assassination at the Saudi crown prince’s behest.

Khashoggi was murdered on October 2, 2018 after he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul to obtain a document stating that he was divorced, so that he could marry his Turkish fiancée, Hatice Cengiz.

Recording and other evidence gathered by Turkish authorities revealed how a team of Saudi agents subdued, killed and then dismembered the journalist inside the diplomatic mission.

Saudi Arabia initially issued conflicting stories about Khashoggi’s disappearance, but eventually said that he was killed in a “rogue” operation.

US court tosses Saudi suit against former top Saudi intelligence officer

Additionally, a US judge has dismissed a lawsuit by a Saudi state-owned firm against former top Saudi intelligence official Saad al-Jabri.

It ruled that a rarely used US government intervention to stop the release of classified information prevented the case from proceeding.

“The court is unconvinced” that it could rule for Sakab Saudi Holding Co. without involving the materials that the US government deemed state secrets, US District Court of Massachusetts Judge Nathaniel Gorton said.

Sakab's case also had no basis in federal or Massachusetts law, he said.

The US government's state secrets assertion also barred Jabri from proceeding with a counter claim for a judgment that he legally obtained luxury properties in Boston sought by Sakab.

“This is a private action between cooperate entities and al-Jabri. The kingdom is not a party to this action. Any inquiries should be directed to the companies involved,” a Saudi official, who asked not to be identified, said.

Jabri was a close aide to Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, a former Saudi interior minister ousted by MbS as heir to the throne in a 2017 palace coup. Jabri fled to Canada.

Jabri alleged in a 2020 US lawsuit that Canadian authorities foiled a plot to kill him by a “hit squad” sent by MbS. The incident allegedly occurred less than two weeks after Khashoggi’s murder.

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