Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told CBS News’ “60 Minutes” that he did not order the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi, but accepted “full responsibility” for the “heinous crime.”
Speaking to CBS News’ Norah O’Donnell, bin Salman said he “absolutely [did] not” order Khashoggi’s murder.
“This was a heinous crime,” he said. “But I take full responsibility as a leader in Saudi Arabia, especially since it was committed by individuals working for the Saudi government.”
When pressed by O’Donnell on what he meant by “taking responsibility” for the murder plot, the crown prince reiterated that the move was “a mistake.”
“When a crime is committed against a Saudi citizen by officials working for the Saudi government, as a leader I must take responsibility. This was a mistake, and I must take all actions to avoid such a thing in the future.”
Khashoggi was brutally murdered by a 15-person Saudi hit squad on October 2, 2018 at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The prominent journalist was born in Saudi Arabia but lived in self-imposed exile in the US and wrote as a columnist for the Washington Post.
In the months following the murder, Saudi Arabia shifted its narrative on what happened to Khashoggi inside the consulate, first claiming that he died during an altercation before finally admitting that his murder was premeditated. Saudi officials have distanced the Crown Prince from the killing and denied he had any prior knowledge of the assassination plot.
Bin Salman spoke publicly about the crime for the first time in an interview with PBS’ Martin Smith as part of a lengthy documentary on the Crown Prince released on Saturday. During the interview, bin Salman acknowledged that he was indirectly responsible for the killing as Saudi Arabia’s de facto leader.
“It happened under my watch,” he said. “I get all the responsibility because it happened under my watch.”
When pressed by Smith on how it was possible that he did not know about plot in advance, bin Salman implied that it was difficult to keep track of all government employees.
“We have 20 million people, we have three million government employees,” he said.
“I have officials, ministers to follow things, and they’re responsible.”
Bipartisan US lawmakers determined in December that bin Salman was “complicit” in the murder. A UN report into the killing published in June of this year said that it was “inconceivable” that a sophisticated crime involving high ranking Saudi officials was carried out without bin Salman’s knowledge.
“Every expert consulted finds it inconceivable that an operation of this scale could be implemented without the crown prince being aware, at a minimum,” the report said.