Journalist Jamal Khashoggi repeatedly told his killers “I can’t breathe” during his final moments in the Saudi Consulate General in Istanbul, Reuters reported on Monday, citing a CNN story.
Quoting a source who said they had read the full translated transcript of an audio recording, CNN said that Khashoggi recognized one of the men, Gen. Maher Mutreb, who told him, “You are coming back.”
Khashoggi replied, “You can’t do that… People are waiting outside.”
His Turkish fiancée Hatice Cengiz waited for hours outside the consulate on Oct. 2 and when he did not emerge, contacted Turkish authorities about his disappearance.
There was no further dialogue in the relatively short transcript, prepared by Turkish authorities, CNN’s source said.
As people set upon Khashoggi, he started fighting for air, repeating, “I can’t breathe” at least three times. The transcript then used singular words to describe the noises, including “scream,” “gasping,” “saw” and “cutting.”
The transcript included no further mention of returning Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia, and no indication that he had been drugged, as Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor said in November.
One of the voices was identified in the transcript by Turkish authorities as Dr. Salah al-Tubaiqi, a forensic expert specialized in autopsy attached to the Saudi Ministry of Interior, CNN reported.
Tubaiqi tells others to put on earphones or listen to music like him, the CNN source said.
Mutreb, a senior intelligence officer who is part of the security team of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, called officials and gave step-by-step details of the operation, CNN reported, finally saying, “Tell yours, the thing is done, it’s done.”
Turkish officials said last week that the Istanbul prosecutor’s office had concluded there was “strong suspicion” that Saud el-Qahtani, a top aide to Prince Mohammed, and Gen. Ahmed al-Assiri, who served as deputy head of foreign intelligence, were among the planners of Khashoggi’s killing.
Saudi Arabia has said the prince had no prior knowledge of the murder. After offering numerous contradictory explanations, Riyadh later said Khashoggi had been killed and his body dismembered when negotiations to persuade him to return to Saudi Arabia failed.