Jamal Khoshoggi chosen by ‘Time’ magazine ‘I can’t breathe’ were his final words: CNN report

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NEW YORK: In a bid to keep heinous crime of murder of Arab journalist Jamal Khoshoggi alive, American magazine ‘Time’ has chosen “The Guardians,” a group of journalists who have been targeted for their work, as Person of the Year. A series of four black-and-white covers highlights what the magazine calls “the War on Truth.”

The group includes Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post contributor who was killed at the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in October. This is the first time that a ‘Person of the Year’ is a deceased person.

Another cover features Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo, two Reuters journalists who were arrested late last year in Myanmar while they were working on stories about the killings of Rohingya Muslims, a minority population in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The two men remain behind bars. Their wives were photographed for the cover.

“The Guardians” also includes the journalists at the Capital Gazette, the Annapolis, Maryland newspaper where five employees were murdered by a gunman last June.

And the fourth cover shows Maria Ressa, chief executive of the Philippine news website Rappler. She was indicted last month on tax evasion charges a case that free speech and civil liberties advocates have warned is part of a wider crackdown on dissent by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.

New report on murder

Jamal Khashoggi’s final words were “I can’t breathe,” CNN said on Sunday, citing a source who has read the transcript of an audio tape of the final moments before the journalist’s murder. The source told the US network the transcript made clear the killing was premeditated, and suggests several phone calls were made to give briefings on the progress.

CNN said Turkish officials believe those calls were made to top officials in Riyadh. Khashoggi, a Saudi contributor to The Washington Post, was killed shortly after entering the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul on October 2.

The transcript of the gruesome recording includes descriptions of Khashoggi struggling against his murderers, CNN said, and references sounds of the dissident journalist’s body “being dismembered by a saw”.

The original transcript was prepared by Turkish intelligence services, and CNN said its source read a translation version and was briefed on the probe into the journalist’s death.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister on Sunday meanwhile rejected demands to extradite suspects connected to the murder of Khashoggi as sought by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan has repeatedly called on Saudi Arabia to hand over suspects in the killing. According to Turkey, a 15-member Saudi team was sent to Istanbul to kill Khashoggi.

Saudi Arabia, however, holds that it was a “rogue” operation gone wrong — a claim undercut by the reported transcript.

For his part United States President Donald Trump has refrained from blaming Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, even though the CIA reportedly concluded that he ordered the assassination.

The murder has damaged Riyadh’s international reputation and Western countries including the United States, France and Canada have placed sanctions on nearly 20 Saudi nationals.

US stand

The outgoing United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley said that Washington cannot give “a pass” to Saudi Arabia for the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

In an exclusive interview to The Atlantic on December 7, Haley told the magazine’s interviewer Uri Friedman: “The whole situation with Khashoggi is we can’t give them a pass. And the reason is you have Saudi government officials that did this in a Saudi consulate.”

Noting that Saudi Arabia is a “complete partner” of the US and has helped in fighting with Iran, Haley pointed out: “I think that the main thing is: No, we don’t condone this; no, we’re not going to continue to be your partners if you continue to use thuggish behaviour. But you know what? That country is our complete partner when it comes to fighting Iran, and our only real partner when it comes to fighting Iran, so it’s a balancing act, but you have to do both,” Haley reiterated.

Saudi stand

Saudi Arabia on Sunday ruled out the possibility of extraditing its nationals to Turkey for their alleged involvement in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. “We don’t extradite our citizens,” Anadolu News Agency quoted Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir as saying in response to a query over the arrest warrants issued to two of its nationals on the sidelines of the 39th Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit in Riyadh.

The minister added that those who were found guilty in Khashoggi’s murder have been referred to the prosecutor’s office. He further stressed that Riyadh is open to cooperation and assistance in the investigation pertaining to the case. The response from the Saudi Foreign Minister came after a court in Istanbul earlier this week issued arrest warrants for two former Saudi officials allegedly involved in Khashoggi’s killing.